Fiona's Guardians

By Robert W. Bly

Burton Mayers Books, October 2, 2020

Review by The Horror Zine Staff Reviewer John M. Cozzoli

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In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there are five points of view to tell the story: five narrative voices that include Jonathan, Mina, Lucy, Dr. Seward, and Van Helsing. Stoker signposts each one with dates so the reader does not get lost in the story as it progresses. Dan Klefstad’s Fiona’s Guardians also uses a multi-narrator approach too, though he uses section headings to mark their first-person narratives as they move back and forth. Pay attention to those signposts because he does switch often. He also tosses in flashbacks, challenging the reader even more to keep pace with the story he unfolds by shifting between past and present events. A weakened element from all this is the why, as his approach, moving between the vampires and the humans, which include Fiona, Daniel, Wolf, Soren, and the rather comical secret religious order of brothers called Mors Strigae, along with some key actions that take place off-page, make their motivations, with the inherent whys and wherefores, a bit vague at times.

Fiona is a century old, give or take, vampire with a long-standing problem. Gone are the nights she could hit up the local village for a few warm pints. She addresses her daily need for blood by hiring special domestic help (guardians) through job postings. The listing promises much but it makes clear that instant death is a possibility if the applicant does not work out, that the position is permanent, that being an orphan is a plus, having a strong aversion to gossiping with the neighbors also much desired, being able to improvise and invest smartly a minimum requirement, and able to tie loose ends neatly or wrap a corpse tightly, complete the job description. Oh, and to find blood, of course, from more civilized sources like hospitals and blood banks (known in the trade as ‘banking’), to keep a low profile.

Wolf is a new hire and Daniel, a long-time guardian, shows him the ropes. Soren, one of Fiona’s more demanding and condescending vampire lovers, makes it tough for the guardians, and Daniel, especially, would like to see Soren burn in the daylight. Complicating the job of keeping Fiona supplied with blood are the brothers of the Mors Strigae, who cannot seem to do anything without making a mess of it. Guns with wooden bullets and drones are their primary weapons as they track down vampires, with Fiona their primary long-time target. Her fellow vampires also start gunning for her, but she’s pretty tricky. She is a female vampire in a male-dominated vampire’s world. To change that she will need to go up against her own kind and the antediluvian vampire who dominates them all.

Brother Raymond and Father Abbott hatch plans or pick up the pieces after those plans usually fail, Daniel and Wolf bicker over the on-the-job training, Fiona and Soren, along with the backstabbing vampires and Mors Strigae politics and power struggles, thicken and enrich the plot. Betrayal, loyalty, some lust, and human and vampire foibles and wickedness complicate who the reader should be cozying up to and rooting for. But their dialogs are a versatile highlight throughout the book, handled expertly and with proper inflexion for each personality. At times it continues past its freshness date, but it never becomes perfunctory or out of character. Through it all, Fiona schemes and maneuvers her way with her own purpose in mind. And she is one vampire who gets what she wants, by smile or by bite.