Elizabeth Dorn, airship captain, widow and vampiric ex of the royal guard is currently the best hope the child emperor has against mechanical spider like devices which steal the energy of their target; man, woman or child. Devices which come from the mind of a mad scientist long dead. Now a few things, first when I say Vampiric I mean that quite literally, as in pointy teeth, hindered by sunlight the whole nine yards. Also when I say child emperor I mean he has the body of a child but a mind of the ages for he too is a Vampire and when I say mad scientist I mean old creepy castle and well you get the point. Now the story goes that Dorn saved the Emperor once from the machinations of this man so surely it must be easier when he is already dead. Or at least it can’t be worse than last time. Right? This begins Dorns race across the English countryside by airship and mag rail, coach and foot to figure out who has stirred up the past and for what end.
Written by Sean Hayden and published by Untold press Lady Dorn is a seat of your pants action adventure through an empire ruled by Vampires, manned by werewolves, powered by wizards and headed by a physical child. Now it should be said that the story is just as camp and fun as it sounds with one of the key words here being fun. The idea of Vampire ruling over humans has been explored and tested before but never with such absence of sorrow and gloom. Dorn greaves far more for her lost love, who fell last time these spiders walked the earth than she does for any lost humanity her vampire nature has denied her. As for humans they hold little real power and have long been denied for serving in the royal guard, though they are starting to seep in as the story begins, and are expected to donate blood once a month to feed the Vamps in power. It is to the stories credit that it never lingers on these downs instead trying to keep itself going like a runaway mag train with all the suspense and mystery that would bring. Never does ‘Lady Dorn’ loose it’s fun pulpy nature to the melodrama of the human soul.
The story is not perfect however and it has one major flaw and this is its length. Now before I begin talking about this I should mention that even the amazon blurb notes that the tale runs under ten thousand words so there is no duplicity here, nobody is trying to slip a short story out under the cover of a novel. It’s just that I don’t think most people realise how little you actually get for ten thousand words and this is made all the worse when it seems like the story was planned for almost a hundred. Characters come and go, the plot twists and turns and there is no time to notice. It feels like someone was so scared of Basil Exposition that they ended up removing anything and everything but the bare bones of the story. It feels like the beginning has been cut off, the middle starved down to a size zero waist and the end drops off like they run out of budget. Please bear in mind that I don’t mind a short story I just prefer them when they feel like they are designed as such, instead this ends up feeling like renting a dvd and finding out your player is stuck on fast forward. Though better that than a lot of stories at the moment which feel the need to drag everything out to pad the book and squeeze a few more coppers from your purse.
Is this a good book? Well to be fair if I am complaining that there should be more in the book then I that means I enjoyed what there was. Also with a selling price of less than eighty pence I suppose I shouldn’t expect the next three volume epic. In the end Lady Dorn is an enjoyable piece of fluff that could have been more. If we were to return to this world, and I hope we do, I hope it is in either a true novella, instead of this weird bridge between one and a short story, or a true short story. This sounds like it could be a fun world to walk around and the characters we have met seem interesting enough thus far only time will tell if this spirit rises from the grave stronger than before.