Chippewa Publishing, $3.00, ISBN 1-933400-13-7
Fantasy Romance, 2005
Shannon Leigh’s Ivona Knight, Vampyress is a short story, which explains it being sold for only $3.00 from independent publisher Chippewa Publishing. It’s marketed as “dark romance”, which is a little misleading if you ask me because readers may be led to expect some typical soap opera starring sad whiny vampires and distressed damsels-in-distress. This story is more about the origins of our vampiric heroine Ivona Knight. Having said that, there’s some romance here, but I strongly suspect that this story will please readers who enjoy tales of vampires instead of romance novels that just happen to feature vampires, if I am making sense here.
The story begins with several people trapped in a tavern as the thunderstorm raging outside prevents them from leaving. They are hungry but the food supply is a little on the short side. To decide who will get the food, the folks trapped in the tavern decide to hold some sort of contest. They will tell each other stories, real or fictional, and the tavern keeper will decide who tells the best story and therefore gets to eat the food. As it happens, two of the folks in the tavern happen to be a little on the non-human side. One of them, the male, listens, mesmerized, as the other, the female named Ivona Knight, begins to tell the story of how she comes to be a vampiress. To the others, they believe that she is telling a fictitious story. But to him, he will be stunned to learn the secrets of Ivona that ties her closer to him than he initially suspected.
Written in the flashback form popularized by Anne Rice in Interview with the Vampire, this story begins in Romania as Ivona’s life crosses with Prince Vlad’s, with devastating consequences to the ones she love. This story is all about how she seeks revenge on Vlad and ultimately pays a heavy price for the satisfaction. For me to say more will spoil this short story more than necessary, so let me just say that Ivona is never a wilting lily in her story, which makes her a fun tough heroine. Also, she is a morally gray heroine in the sense that she did some really bad things (to say the least) in this story without wringing her hands in guilt and wailing her heart out in the process.
For a short story, Ivona Knight, Vampyress is well-paced from its Gothic-like start to its gripping penultimate. The story can be violent and bloody, which is to be expected since we are talking about Vlad the Impaler here, but what is really satisfying is that Ivona never wants me, the reader, to hold her nature or her personality against her. Which is to say, this is a dark and often bloody story featuring a vampiress and readers expecting tedious broken records about vampires being bad and filled with self-loathing will be disappointed. I really like this story.