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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Vampire Princess

By Michael Romkey
Ballantine Books, 341 pp, 1996

I told you I wouldn't wait so long to read the next Romkey book. Sometimes, I really do what I say I am going to.

This is the third book in Romkey's series that started with I, Vampire and continued with The Vampire Papers. It continues the story of Nicoletta Vittorini di Medusa, an ancient vampire princess. Half the novel is her diary, in which she tells of the fall of her kingdom to Muslim invaders during the time of the Crusades and her conversion to becoming a vampire. Along the way, she suffers all kinds of indignities at the hands of men, explaining her hatred for them.

As always, Romkey interweaves historical fact with fiction. For example, Medusa is close friends with da Vinci and takes credit for some of his work. She also claims that Shakespeare plagiarized her diary to write Hamlet. The device is not believable, of course, but it is entertaining.

The other half of the book takes place on a cruise ship, the Atlantic Princess, renovated from an earlier 20th-century luxury liner by Lord Godwin, a British magnate. Under pressure from his financial partner who has influential and dangerous ties to the Yakuza, Godwin cuts some corners to meet the date for the ship's maiden voyage from Florida to England across the North Atlantic.

Naturally, the Nicoletta Vittorini di Medusa is along for the ride, as well as a morose and depressing David Parker, who actually tries to kill Medusa earlier in the book and fails. Medusa starts doing her thing on the ship and the copious bloodletting begins. It's all quite fun.

The only flaw is the myriad cast of characters. Romkey introduces too many in the space he allotted to the cruise part of the book. At times, it's hard to keep them straight, and it's impossible to tell, until the end, even who the protagonist is (it's not Parker, as in the previous two books). So there's a lack of focus through some of the story. And Parker is disappointing. He doesn't do much to stop the other vampires and takes the coward's way out at the end.

But those are not fatal defects, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book, The Vampire Virus.

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