Fiction Review

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The Gothic soap opera that refuses to die has spawned a new novel.

By Dan Cziraky     March 08, 2000

The gothic soap opera that refuses to die resurfaces in a new series of novels from HarperCollins. (Ah ha! The dreaded Collins name works its evil spell yet again!) Late 1998 saw the publication of DARK SHADOWS: ANGELIQUE'S DESCENT, written by actress Lara Parker, based on the character background she developed for her portrayal of the witch Angelique Bouchard in the original DARK SHADOWS series (1966-71). A year later, a second book tells an all-new tale of the mysterious Collins family of Maine. Set roughly six months after governess Victoria Winter's trip to 1795 Collinwood to witness the events that lead to Barnabas Collins becoming a vampire, the story follows the spirit of Angelique as she seeks to cross over into the realm of the living. She manipulates Thomas Rathburn, a powerful vampire from Atlanta, into believing that the Collins family was involved in the heinous murders of his wife and son during the Civil War. Hoping to provoke Rathburn into aiding her in her quest for revenge against her once beloved, now hated Barnabas, she implants visions in Rathburn's mind, and he travels to Collinsport. There, he quickly ingratiates himself with the Collinses, and soon finds himself falling in love with Vicki. Rathburn enchants Vicki, whom he desires as a bloodmate. Barnabas, however, has no intensions of allowing this evil union, and confronts his rival. Soon, they discover Angelique to be their common enemy, and are forced to put aside their suspicions about each other in order to defeat the demonic witch. Can even the powers of two vampires at last vanquish Angelique, preventing her from crossing over into the realm of the living on Halloween?

Rainey and Massie have plotted a decent gothic potboiler, with hints of horrors from such other sources as Anne Rice and H.P. Lovecraft. The characterizations of such well-known players as Barnabas, Vicki, Angelique, Roger Collins, David Collins, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and Carolyn Stoddard don't always ring true, but they certainly nailed poor, frightened, reluctant servant Willie Loomis, Barnabas' slave. At times, the story is almost reminiscent of the Marilyn Ross romance novels based on the series that were printed in the '60s. Still, it's not a good sign when the most fully developed character in the book is new arrival Rathburn. For DS devotees, the book is certainly worth a look, but non-fans might find it a tad slow and fairly derivative. Parker's introduction begins with a quote from Bram Stoker's DRACULA, the still-reigning king of vampire fiction. She goes on to connect the daytime drama with the great gothic romances of Mary Shelley, Victor Hugo, Henry James, Goethe, and Poe. While she surely exaggerates the show's literary merits, this new series of novels can at least attempt such leaps of greatness. After all, a wonderful cast of fully realized characters awaits any authors bold enough, daring enough, and talented enough to tackle them. And, this time, there are no cardboard sets or flubbed lines to get in the way. While DREAMS OF THE DARK falls just short of being a great DS story, it is a half step in the right direction. Personally, I'd like to see a SECOND series of new books that picks up where the ill-fated but sumptuous 1991 NBC revival left off!

DARK SHADOWS: DREAMS OF THE DARK, by Stephen Mark Rainey and Elizabeth Massie. Introduction by Lara Parker. HarperEntertainment, New York, October 1999, 378 pp., $6.99.


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