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As part of First/Second's delightful Vampire Month extravaganza, I give you a most urbane vampire of alternate history, Don Sebastian de Ulloa, the central character in Elizabeth Bear's most excellent New Amsterdam. From the publisher's site:

Abigail Irene Garrett drinks too much. She makes scandalous liaisons with inappropriate men, and if in her youth she was a famous beauty, now she is both formidable--and notorious. She is a forensic sorceress, and a dedicated officer of a Crown that does not deserve her loyalty.

She has nothing, but obligations.

Sebastien de Ulloa is the oldest creature she has ever known. He was no longer young at the Christian millennium, and that was nine hundred years ago. He has forgotten his birth-name, his birth-place, and even the year in which he was born, if he ever knew it. But he still remembers the woman who made him immortal.

He has everything, but a reason to live.

In a world where the sun never set on the British Empire, where Holland finally ceded New Amsterdam to the English only during the Napoleonic wars, and where the expansion of the American colonies was halted by the war magic of the Iroquois, they are exiles in the new world--and its only hope for justice.

In this collection of mysteries, readers learn slowly about Sebastian and Abigail and how their relationship will become great enough to threaten the actions of the British Empire. The larger arc that reaches from the book's beginning to end is political but each self contained mystery covers all sorts of circumstance from greed to revenge. The mysteries are artfully written and reason enough to enjoy the book but the inclusion of true political figures (and Tesla even!) gives the book even more depth. What's really cool about it though is that while Sebastian is a vampire the point is not that he's a vampire - the point is that he is a detective; the issue he has with needing blood every now and again is what makes his life hard but is not who he is - and it's not why this title was written.

In other words, for all the fun Laurell K. Hamilton is, you won't find her issues here. New Amsterdam does have its share of horror and supernatural crimes, but this is a very urbane and sophisticated vampire and those are the type of stories that Bear has written. It's very cool, very different, and very smart. I've included the book in my June column at Bookslut along with some other awesome alt history titles (including Jenny Davidson's wonderful The Explosionist); I think New Amsterdam will be a winner for teen mystery fans who like a bit of horror with their stories.

For other fabulous vamp tales, check out First Second Books for more links. For me, Buffy will always hold a special place in my heart, as well Robin McKinley's Sunshine and yes, Anita Blake's complicated love life. As to the big screen, it is only and forever The Lost Boys - best vamp movie and one of the top ten soundtracks ever.


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