The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sommelier Is Historical Horror Done Right

Brian James Gage's second book in The Nosferatu Conspiracy trilogy is an entertaining mix of thriller, historical fiction, and horror.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy Book Two
The Nosferatu Conspiracy Book Two

As World War I rages on, Kaiser Wilhelm II is working behind the scenes on his real goal; to find the man guarding a bottle of Dracula’s blood so he can take it to make himself and his wife immortal warlocks. As part of this plan, he allies himself with Elizabeth Bathory, the countess known for slaughtering peasant girls in the early 1600’s to drink and bathe in their blood to retain her youth, who is still alive after hundreds of years as a giant spider due to a curse. Meanwhile, Felix and Rurik, two Russians responsible for slaying the vampire Grigori Rasputin, also seek out the bottle to destroy it and prevent its powers from falling into the wrong hands.

In The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Book Two, The Sommelier, Gage mixes actual historical characters, such as Kaiser Wilhelm, the Red Baron, Elizabeth Bathory, and Franz Ferdinand, with vampires, vampire hunters, werewolves, warlocks, and witches. The main conceit, as the title implies, is that almost the entirety of the recorded history of World War I was a cover up for the real forces behind it. In this case, those forces are secret occult societies hiding the existence of supernatural beings to maintain control of the world behind the scenes. It takes events with some mystery or mythology behind them and puts fantastical spins on them, such as the Red Baron using dark magic to achieve his victories in air combat. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand turns out to be part of Kaiser Wilhelm’s plot to obtain Dracula’s blood. The Allied Powers find themselves battling hordes of werewolves and mindless vampires in between fighting the soldiers of the Central Powers. The result of this is an entertaining mixture of historical fiction, horror, fantasy, and thriller.

As the title implies, this book is the second in a series. Having gone into the story without reading the first, it does stand on its own and I was able to follow the action with little trouble – for the most part. One thing that makes the book drag a bit is that it weaves intricate webs of shadowy occult organizations that have been plotting for thousands of years to use their dark magic to take over the world. These conspiracy backstories likely would have been easier to follow had I read the first book. Likewise, Felix and Rurik, the heroes of the book, have little backstory in this one, but these were likely established in the prior book too.

Between the machinations of the Kaiser and the occult counsels, Gage throws the reader into action scenes that are a mixture of thrilling and disturbing. One that stands out to me is when a young woman confronts Elizabeth Bathory, only to discover she is living as a giant spider. The encounter ends with Bathory gouging out the young woman’s eyes and turning her into a living puppet.

Gage also creates some very well done edge-of-your-seat moments. Not long after Felix and Rurik are introduced, they find themselves kidnapped and put to work in an East European mining operation. The two are forced to escape the vampire-filled mines without even the clothes on their back. This scene had me hooked throughout and really pulled me into the story.

One thing that did somewhat bother me was how and where the book ended. While I can’t go into much detail without spoiling it, it ended on a cliffhanger which didn’t leave off in a way I found satisfying. I didn’t expect the book to wrap all the storylines up – this is part two in a planned trilogy – but it still left many dangling in a way that made the ending a bit frustrating.

However, I found the second book of The Nosferatu Conspiracy to be an entertaining yarn, combining horror and history into a thriller of two vampire hunters fighting a vast occult conspiracy. Even though I had come into the series in the second book, I certainly want to go back and read the first book. I’ll also be picking up the third in the series when it’s out.

Review copy provided

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