“The wampyr has walked the dark streets of the world’s great cities for a thousand years. In that time, he has worn out many names–and even more compatriots.
Now, so that one of those companions may die where she once lived, he has come again to the City of London. In 1938, where the ghosts of centuries of war haunt rain-grey streets and the Prussian Chancellor’s army of occupation rules with an iron hand.
Here he will meet his own ghosts, the remembrances of loves mortal–and immortal. And here he will face the Chancellor’s secret weapon: a human child.” [Publisher's Summary]
Note about order: While in many ways Seven for a Secret stands admirably on its own, I would suggest reading New Amsterdam prior to picking this one up.
Of New Amsterdam, I wrote: “For the pleasure I took from reading this book exceeded whatever expectations I may have entertained…I sincerely hope that Elizabeth Bear writes again of Lady Abigail Irene and Don Sebastien for I would like to visit with them again.” It was, in fact, one of my favorite novels of that year, introducing a vampire that has also become one of my favorites: Sebastien De Ulloa. I approached Seven for a Secret, a novella that picks up some time after the events of New Amsterdam, with caution: I wanted, needed, to love it just as much. And, mostly, I did.
Sebastien is a favorite of mine for a very simple reason: He breaks my heart. He is a vampire grown weary with the world, with his immortality. He’s watched empires rise and fall, he’s seen humankind make the same mistakes over and again, and he’s been witness to the death of loved ones. He is tired, his losses weighing him down, and yet…For all that, he believes his existence has a purpose. In New Amsterdam that purpose found him taking up the role of detective, solving crimes, finding a sort of justice. In this installment, Sebastien is determined to free England from Prussian rule. The means to do so comes in the form of young girls, taken from their homes and families around the age of eleven, who are being groomed to take up the mantle of the heart of the Prussian army.
But there is another reason he has returned to England from the new world: Abby Irene, one of his dearest friends and long time companions, wants to die in her homeland. I adored the development of Sebastien and Abby Irene’s friendship and devotion in New Amsterdam. It was…I can’t explain how it touched me except to say that I found it utterly beautiful and immeasurably compelling. And so to come to this, with Sebastien facing another potential loss, one that will rock him to his core…it made the story that much more poignant.
Additional appeals: The story’s alternate history, the background of this books’ particular brand of werewolf (which taps into Norse myth/history,) and the wonderful atmosphere that Bear once again imbued the story with.
To wrap up, if you: like the idea of an atypical vampire, enjoy emotionally moving characterization, and appreciate a healthy dose of history and magical theory, give New Amsterdam and Seven for a Secret a try. As for me, I’ll be waiting on the late December release of The White City, which will again feature Sebastien and his court.