Emma Andrews is a Dhampir or vampire hunter. She was born one though she didn't know it until she was an adult. While studying documents in Copenhagen, she receives a letter from Sebastian, a cousin of sorts, informing her of strange evil happenings at Blackbrair School for Girls in the northern Lake District. This is the same school Emma's mother attended before she married and went mad. Desiring to see if she could learn more about her mother as well as desiring to discover and destroy the evil that seems to be there, Emma leaves Copenhagen to take a position at the school.
Emma finds many things that disturb her. Originally it was the strange ways 5 of the school's girls were acting and how it some how tied in with the evil legacy of the Cyprian Queen. These girls were doing things that they had to know were wrong and were dabbling in witchcraft! Not only that, they were trying to recruit another girl to join them. That won't happen if Emma can stop it! Emma finds she has her own problems when a voice calls to her naming her sister. Is this a vampire that for some unknown reason she can't detect? Could this "voice" be tied in to the Cyprian Queen? When Emma is attacked, she knows she needs to find out and soon.
Emma begins her quest by herself but soon finds that her friends are coming to aid her. Sebastian arrives first bringing with him a priest in trouble. Father Luke found himself unable to cope with what he perceives as lies from the church he loves. This causes him to turn to opium to ease his pain. Sebastian, fop that he is, won't allow that to happen and has removed Father Luke from the opium dens. They travel to the local inn to help Emma however they can. Later, Valerian Fox arrives lending his support. Valerian disappeared for months while searching for Marius, vampire who has partially changed him. Emma has more than friendly feelings toward Valerian but will she act on them?
Emma also finds she is drawn towards another man, Lord Robert Suddington. She feels it is wrong but also finds she can not help herself. What is going on?
Set in 1862, this story shows its readers sides of England that aren't usually seen. Though the opium dens are mentioned, they are not described. However, the powerful addiction to the poppy is as is the withdrawal from it. Life in a girl's boarding school was a primary location for Emma. From classes to dorm rooms, this story brought it to life. Even old superstitions were brought out.
The characters were well done. Emma comes across as unsure of what she is and what she can do but determined to do what is right, even when scared. She makes mistakes but learns from them. Emma also wants desperately to learn about her mother, a woman she doesn't remember. This quest may lead to heartbreak but she's taking it anyway. Father Luke was a strong man who is now trying to make his way back to solid ground. He's struggling but he's still fighting. Sebastian is complex. He's sexual preferences would get him into trouble with society. He loves the city and it's amusements but he is committed to helping Emma. His relationship with Father Luke is full of disagreements and fussing but he's still there for the priest. Valerian is Emma's love interest. He's not sure he wants that as he sees himself tainted. But, he can't leave Emma when she needs him and wants to take care of her anyway he can.
The school girls are also done with detail and variety. It would be boring if they were all basically the same and so they are not. There is pettiness and a bit of spoiled brats as well as shyness and demure behavior.
This is the second book about Emma and her friends. You don't need to read the first book to enjoy this one but it would give you a better understanding of some of the actions in this one.
This is not a bright and cheerful book. At times it feels gloomy and dark. However, there is lots of action which keeps it moving quickly. And, evil is dark or should be so why wouldn't a book about killing evil be a bit dark.
I'm enjoying this series about Emma. She doesn't live exactly according to normal Victorian standards. Her friends aren't exactly exemplary British subjects. Her skills aren't exactly those that would be useful in the drawing room. All this makes her interesting and different which makes the stories about her just as interesting and different.
They are after Dracula and getting closer one vampire at a time. I can't wait to see what adventure is next!
Born by blood to be Dhampir—a vampire hunter—Emma Andrews nearly lost her life and everyone she loves at Dulwich Manor. Now something evil is preying on students at a northern Lake District girls' school—the same school Emma's mother attended years ago. Drawn as much by the desire to learn more about her family's secrets as the possibility of vampires, Emma finds the schoolgirls in the grip of a terrible legacy—the ageless evil of the Cyprian Queen, a dark goddess of ancient legend. Now Emma must tread a careful path—along with her old friends Sebastian, Father Luke, and the mysterious and dashing Valerian Fox—deeper into the darkness to face her most paralyzing fears . . . and perhaps come one step closer to the Dracula himself.