[GUEST REVIEW] Michaele Jordan on Louise Marley’s ‘Mozart’s Blood’
Michaele Jordan was born in Los Angeles, bred in the Midwest, educated in Liberal Arts at Bard College and in computers at Southern Ohio College. She has worked at a kennel and a Hebrew School and AT&T. She’s a bit odd. Now she writes. Her previous novel, Blade Light, a charming traditional fantasy, was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe and is now available as an ebook at Amazon or at iBooks. Her next novel, Mirror Maze, is available for pre-order from Amazon.
I’m afraid you’ve never heard of me. My novel Blade Light was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe but never saw print on paper; my new novel, Mirror Maze, won’t be out until October. So I was delighted at the chance to get better acquainted with SF/F readers by contributing to SF Signal. I flew straight to the site, to check it out.
I stumbled promptly on a post by Louise Marley, who gently bemoaned the absence of serious music in SF/F. I, too, am a classical music fan, although nowhere near as knowledgeable as Ms. Marley, so I was intrigued when she mentioned readers telling her “all they know about opera they learned from …[her]…novel Mozart’s Blood.” An SF/F novel about opera? This, I thought, I have to see. So I ordered a copy.
When it arrived, I nearly sent it back. It was about vampires. Said so right there on the cover. I loved vampires once. Long, long ago. But now? I am mortally sick of vampires. In fact, I am ready to put a stake through the heart of the next writer who tries to waste my valuable time with vampires.
And yet… That vampiresque picture on the cover was not unlike a poster for Don Giovanni. And the book was right there in my hand. I just naturally opened it up. Call it instinct, or reflex. Once it was open, I told myself, “She’s got ten pages. Ten pages to convince me to keep reading.
Let me warn you that I do not consider it a spoiler to describe the opening of a book. If you disagree, please skip ahead a couple of paragraphs, with my apologies.
Mozart’s Blood opened with a little boy being sold for use as a castrato. They tell writers to start with an action scene, and Ms. Marley did. But this action scene was completely unlike any other opening scene I have ever read. Most books don’t even betray a knowledge of what castrati are, let alone about the traffic in candidates. And yet the scene was not inaccessible. Fundamentally, it was simply something terrible happening to a frightened child-a basic story strophe with an emotional appeal we can all understand.
So Ms. Marley passed the ten page test. I did not throw the book down the basement steps to await transport to Second Hand Books. I kept reading. And reading. And reading. In fact, I couldn’t put it down.
The story features Teresa Saporiti, an attractive young singer who is thrilled by the opportunity to create a role under the famous Mozart. The reader does not need to know-may not even care–that Teresa Saporiti is an authentic historic personage. She is a believable character in an interesting story. Mozart is portrayed as having a peculiar laugh, a shrill, but devoted wife and a fondness for partying. These convincing details create the landscape of the story. They also happen to be true, which makes them all the more entertaining.
And about that vampire thing…. I fibbed a little up above. I said that Mozart’s Blood was about vampires. That’s what it said on the cover. But it isn’t. There are vampires in it; the protagonist and other characters are vampires. But the book is not about vampires.
Ms. Marley’s vampires are not the vicious monsters of the Nosferatu mythos. Nor are they saccharine, misunderstood sweeties of Twilight. They are-strange as it may sound in this context-ordinary people. They don’t sleep days. They don’t twinkle. They lead normal lives, at least, normal as it is construed in the world of opera. These people want things and, to get what they want, they do things, things that don’t always work out. Like humans they suffer the ravages of time and loss, albeit on a different scale than most of us.
First and foremost, our heroine wants to sing, needs to sing, with a need that overshadows her need for blood, and Ms. Marley deftly plays these competing drives against each other. Her picture of backstage life at a Don Giovanni production rings true. Her characters, be they prima donnas or supporting artists, offer a fascinating counterpoint between the singers and the roles they undertake. There are theatrical disasters, which seem trivial to outsiders, and raptures incomprehensible to the uninitiated. In short, Mozart’s Blood really is about opera. And yet, you don’t need to know a thing about opera to enjoy the book, because it’s all wrapped up in an exciting story.
Lastly, Mozart’s Blood is something I never expected to see: a fresh and unexpected take on vampires. Go read it!
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Filed under: Book Review
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