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To Sift Through Bitter Ashes
David Niall Wilson
White Wolf, 421 pages

To Sift Through Bitter Ashes
David Niall Wilson
Retired from the US Naval service, Wilson lives Norfolk, VA with his wife, JoAnne, and his two sons. He has written under the pseudonyms Lucas Vancraven and Herb Greenhouse. Under his own name, he wrote the Star Trek: Voyager novels Chrysalis (1997) and This is My Blood (1995).

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A review by Wayne MacLaurin

Vampire novels are a genre unto themselves. Since the rise in popularity of authors like Anne Rice it seems that every second book that you pick up is about vampires. Quite often these new vampires are supposed to be nice guys merely misunderstood by the huddled, ignorant masses of humanity. Right... Have you read Stephen King's Salem's Lot lately? Vampires are just not nice.

Vampires and Gothic Fantasy (it's not even horror any longer) have become mainstream with several successful television series, legions of fans, vampire cults, and record sales of black mascara. And, shelves and shelves of vampire novels; a few quite good but the majority rather putrid.

Several years back, the small gaming company White Wolf released a new role-playing game that captured the essence of this phenomena. Vampire: The Masquerade was tremendously successful and, as is quite common in the gaming industry these days, spawned countless spin-off novels designed to capture the book market in the same way the game captured its slice of the game market.

To Sift Through Bitter Ashes is the first book of The Grails Covenant, a new series set in White Wolf's world of Vampire: The Dark Ages. Although the novel is complete in itself, some of the characters and plots continue into The Trilogy of the Blood Curse, a trilogy from Vampire: The Masquerade.

It was the back cover blurb of To Sift Through Bitter Ashes that enticed me enough to give it a try. The plot elements are intriguing. Vampires, the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar, Egyptian sorcerers and the Catholic Church all rolled up in one neat package. An engaging combination. But it was the concept -- that a vampire was responsible for founding the Knights Templar to further a personal quest for the Holy Grail -- that kept me reading. The hints at dark conspiracies and traces of ancient evil lurking behind the Church will undoubtedly lead me to read the rest of the trilogy.

To Sift Through Bitter Ashes is not a great novel but neither is it entirely without merit. It is a easy read for a lazy summer afternoon and, like me, don't be surprised if you find yourself scanning bookstores for the sequels and its tie-in series. I'll give another nod to this new breed of vampire novels; they don't keep you awake at night, huddled under your sheets with a flash-light for company. It's much more restful.

Copyright © 1997 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

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