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This is the second in the Clockwork Vampires trilogy (the final book is not yet out in the U.S.) and it’s clear that Andy Remic’s writing became much more fluid and nuanced than in the first of the series. This series has been frequently compared with the work of David Gemmell, and while I haven’t read a great deal of Gemmell’s work, from what I’ve seen, the comparison generally works.

Some plot spoilers follow.

As you’ll recall from the first novel, a race of evil half-vampire/half-machines have invaded a standard human kingdom, killing and devouring everyone in their path using powerful magics and an army of albino warriors. The only thing that stands between them and total victory is an aging human warrior with a dark past named Kell and a gigolo-thief-swordsman named Saark. At the end of the first novel, both Kell and his granddaughter had been poisoned and were being blackmailed into helping a ruthless cancer victim.

Well, things go from bad to worse in this second volume for Kell and company. The vampires are still killing everyone in their path while pursuing the protagonists, and they’ve set some highly-trained assassins on their trail. And, as it turns out, the invaders are renegades from their own culture attempting to summon a triad of nigh-Lovecraftian blood gods. Lots of killing, lots of mayhem, lots of twists and turns. It is, at heart, a fairly standard – if a bit more bloody than normal – swords and sorcery novel, but it’s got enough going on in the setting that you won’t mind too much.

I give this one 4 stars out of 5. If you were able to make it past the occasional amateurish passage in the first in the series, I think you won’t be disappointed in how the story advances here. Remic is not afraid to use and abuse his characters, and that’s a good thing. Recommended for fans of blood-and-guts fantasy.

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Review copyright 2011 J. Andrew Byers