As a great fan of gothic I've always been eager to be introduced to new books but these days I've become quite disappointed and sceptical about new publications.
I came across this book with the help of a friend, or rather by his recommendation, he told me I'd be thrilled to read it no matter how much crap I've come across in the last years. So, with a little doubt I opened the book and read it. AND found it absolutely thrilling, indeed!!
I have to state that in several ways I must strongly disagree with the first review, the writer of it seems not to have read the book. Rhinehoth is definitely NOT a story about a battle between vampires and werewolves. On the contrary, I rarely found a gothic book that would turn so much away from the mainstream vampire vs. werewolf plotline without going to extremes. The 'racial' conflict we can find in most contemporary gothic books is replaced here by a conflict rooted in a greater cause. An intended union between the two races is sought by the vampire in order to free the invaded country and form a national identity.
In my opinion, the conflict lies in the problem that comes with the realisation of all great causes and ideologies, which is the individuals' craving for power, may it be human, vampire or werewolf. I see incest, loyalty, betrayal, hidden identities.
Simon, the protagonist, has the role to solve the conflict without knowing who he really is and was and what could possibly be behind the facts and truths he is faced with and cannot understand.
I also liked the visions aspect. He constantly has dreams and waking vision of the seductive bloodsucker heroine and also of his memories of recent and ancient past. These dreams and visions and his exploring the hidden secrets of the most extraordinary castle prison give him singns that help him find his way in the mental mist. This aspect gives the book a thrilling detective storyline also, which I really enjoyed.
Crucial roles, however, are taken by the heroine and the castle itself! Maxime's centuries long secret scientific achievements and failures turn the castle into a kind of flesh and blood machine for self-preservation that would scare the hell out of Victor Frankenstein and make contemporary readers freeze with shock by its possibility for present day realisation. It did scare the hell out of me!
The characters surprise each other and even themselves throughout the story, which gives an atmosphere of uncertainty to the book and always faced me with doors of interpretation opening and closing all the time and maintained a tension which filled me with excitement and urged me to go on with reading.
The gothic horroristic atmosphere is casually combined with a sense of humour provided by Simon's constant self irony. Although the book presents bloodshed and sexual visions, I did not find them too dominant that would destroy high quality, these are there in the book in the right measure proving the author to be an author of novel rather than a cheap blood and porn heck writer that I am forced to get used to nowadays.
The book also has a historical aspect, which is connected to the great cause, carrying the idea through hundreds of years, from the Roman Empire to the present day, with numerous references to the Hitler regime, questioning a universal ideology so much familiar to the cotemporary readers like me. This is an excellent and well written story that remains in the field of the gothic in a classic and modern way at the same time and has a great potential for a trilogy. I can't wait for book 2!