The blood of the victim leads to a monster

Today’s review: Unholy Awakening

Author: Michael Gregorio

Cover of Michael Gregorio’s Unholy Awakening

Publisher: Minotaur publishers
Number of Pages: 464
Genre: Fiction/Mystery & Thriller/ Historical
Series: The Hanno Stiffeniis Series

Blurb courtesy of

A woman’s body has been found at the bottom of a well. The death wounds are startling: two small, round punctures to the jugular vein. . . .

Vampire fever is spreading throughout the countryside, and suspicions soon fall on the recently arrived Emma Rimmele. Investigator Hanno Stiffeniis must do everything he can to find the true culprit before the mob’s hysteria reaches its breaking point and turns violent.

Set in a nineteenth-century world where people truly believed in vampires, Unholy Awakening pits rational, scientific detection against unhindered, violent superstition

Woah guys, woah. What is this? Me? Posting again? This is positively groundbreaking.

But I’m not going to make excuses. I’m not going to whine about how the workload has gotten ridiculously high. I’m not going to talk about how learning leading instrumental parts for our school’s upcoming musical has added extra stresses. I’m not going to start screaming about how mid-year exams are in two weeks and teachers are becoming decisively irksome. I’m not going to do that.

You know what I am going to do?

Review this bloody book. It’s about time.

Unholy Awakening is the fourth installment of the Hanno Stiffeniis series, written by Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio under the pen name Michael Gregorio. It follows the story of Prussian Magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis as he works to solve the latest murder plaguing the haunted town of Lotingen, a fictional town located in the Germanic kingdom of Prussia in the 18th Century.

I neither loved nor hated this book. I have both praise and criticism for it, and I will start by discussing the latter.
You know those dreams you have sometimes, where you are trying desperately to run as fast as you can, but you feel as though you aren’t going anywhere? That’s the kind of experience that I had with some parts of this book. A substantial amount of the text in this book is depicting Stiffeniis’ ongoing monologue as he relays his thoughts, feelings, and perceptions on the events unfolding in the story. Whilst this is helpful in formulating the audience’s opinions on characters, setting, and the time period in which this book is set, in some places it drew the plot to a grinding halt. I felt in some parts that the amount of inner dialogue was too much, dragging parts of the novel on and on, until I (shamefully) found myself actually skipping paragraphs. Some parts brought with them the potential for some rising tension, or engaging action, but I felt that these moments were rather ruined by Stiffeniis banging on about his feelings on the situation, rather than letting the scene play out.
Consequentially, the book had a very stop-start feel to it; every time there was an opportunity to pick up the pace of the story, this was always drawn back by the novel’s tendency to linger for too long on one detail.

On the other hand, I was very impressed with the quality of the language that Gregorio used in the book, and even found myself applauding some of the exceptionally beautiful passages of writing, particularly this one from the second chapter: “The water erupted in a splash as a sizeable, silver-blue pike leapt out of the shallows, chasing sprats, or cannibalising its pickerel in the gluttony of autumn“.
I adored how autumn was personified by the greed and desperation of animals as they frenziedly feed in the foreboding shadow of the oncoming winter. The imagery used to describe the locations in the book were pristine, and seemed to reflect the mood of the story. In the early “calm before the storm” scenes, the description of autumn almost emitted a mood of tense calm, as though the weather itself was waiting with bated breath for the events to unfold. As the story became progressively darker, so the weather became colder and less forgiving. It was this use of symbolism and precisely detailed imagery, coupled with the almost-poetic technique of writing that really helped me cling to the novel until the last pages… that and the desire to find out who really committed the murders.

I know that I have criticised the pace of the novel, but the plot itself is really very good. Throughout the whole novel, as Hanno Stiffeniis chases shady characters down dark alleys, as Emma Rimmelle radiates her dangerously seductive charm, and as French Colonel Lavedrine emits his enticing, yet sarcastic air, there is one underlying question: who is the ‘vampire’? I think my desire to know the answer to this question is what got me through this book, this of course meaning I had to read it all; skipping to the last page would be blasphemous. Despite my judgements, I was very satisfied with the book’s ending. It was twisted nicely, but was not all hugging and flowers and happiness; there are still obviously a few issues that, as hinted by the ending, may be resolved in another addition to this series.

As it is, I don’t feel the need to read any further into this series. This book did not generate enough interest in me to make me feel as though I need to read into the series further, so I am happy just to leave it at that.

As for recommendations, I would suggest this book for readers with a deal of patience. If readers could steel themselves in order to plod through the slow parts, the story is actually quite good, if a bit laborious at times. This book would also be ideal for readers with an interest in books similar to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as this emits a similar dark feel.

Rating: 5/10


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