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Forget about Bill Compton, Edward Cullen, the vampire LeStat, or Count Dracula—you haven’t really met a vampire until you’ve met Carmilla. Twenty-five years before Bram Stoker sat down and penned his tale of horror in Transylvania, fellow Irish ghost story lover Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) crafted the tale of innocent young Laura and her strange, beautiful, deadly visitor. Pretty Laura lives in an old castle with her kind father and a couple of agreeable governesses; it’s a pleasant but sheltered existence. Laura had one terrifying incident in her infancy, when she dreamed a beautiful woman appeared in her room and laid down beside her—but then little Laura felt a sharp prick at her neck, and woke up screaming. But the years have passed and Laura is now a lovely young woman. When a dramatic carriage accident hurls an injured young lady practically onto the doorstep, Laura and her father are only too glad to extend their hospitality. Their guest is Carmilla, a sweet young thing whose face is exactly that of the woman who appeared in Laura’s dream so long ago. Carmilla sleeps late, eats little, reveals nothing of her past life, and lounges around in a most beautiful attitude. But Carmilla also adores Laura—adores her, in fact, well past the point of obsession. Laura is not very wise in the ways of the world so it takes her much longer to catch on than it does for the savvy reader, who is nonetheless quickly caught up in Le Fanu’s dreamy little tale of passion and terror combined. Carmilla was a direct influence on Dracula and on vampire mythology in general—we would have no sensual, seductive, alluring vamps if we had not had Carmilla first. That fact alone makes it an interesting read for any fan of horror or vampire fiction, but Carmilla is also a haunting ghost story that more than stands on its two feet—or fangs, for that matter. Take a bite; you won’t soon regret or forget Carmilla.
posted Mar 5, 2010 at 12:16PM
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