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Beth AmosA well-respected and highly regarded chronicler of vampire lore, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has struck gold yet again with The Soul of an Angel , the second in her trilogy featuring the three "weird sisters" who briefly appeared in Bram Stoker's classic Dracula . Yarbro's first in the series, The Angry Angel , tells the story of young Kelene, a woman-child who escapes the horrors of invading forces only to become Dracula's first mistress. In The Soul of an Angel , a now petulant and seductive Kelene is forced to defend her status when she is joined by the second "sister" -- a 17-year-old by the name of Fenice.
Fenice Zucchar was born into gentility in Venice at a time when women were truly believed to be the "gentler" sex. The goal young Fenice's parents have set for her is to marry well and marry soon, a simple enough task in that there are several interested suitors and Fenice need only choose one. But Fenice yearns for adventure, enthralled by her three brothers' exploits on the high seas in the family's merchant ships. Determined to see and experience the world beyond Venice before settling into a life of marital mediocrity, the spirited and headstrong Fenice concocts a desperate plan when her father forces her to choose a husband.
On the eve of her planned wedding, Fenice disguises herself as a boy, then fakes her own kidnapping by writing a ransom note and ransacking her room. She slips away in the middle of the night and sneaks onto the family's newest boat, which is set to sail on its maiden voyage the next morning under the guidance of Fenice's brother Ercole. Fenice hides in one of the cargo holds, planning to reveal herself only when the ship has sailed far enough that her brother will be unable to turn back.
The plan works, but Fenice is frustrated by the confines of her hiding place and by her rapidly dwindling food stores. She soon becomes lonely and restless, and strange dreams haunt her sleep -- dreams of a craggy wilderness and a mountain fortress, of flying with a hawk-faced man with an imposing, princely air. When her food finally runs out, Fenice realizes her adventure might be more than she bargained for, particularly when she is caught by the ship's cook as she tries to sneak into the galley.
Outraged by Fenice's foolish and selfish deception, Ercole puts her off at the next port of call -- the city of Varna -- and delivers her over to a convent where he hopes the nuns can elicit both remorse and common sense from her by the time he returns. But it doesn't take long for the stifling existence in the convent to drive Fenice to desperation, and she escapes mere days after her arrival. Donning her boy's disguise again, she heads for the street market in search of food and employment, offering her accounting and language skills to various shopkeepers. She is able to find work but ends up giving most of her earnings to a band of thugs who roam the market beating up those who refuse to pay. Then the market begins to shut down as people flee on the heels of several strange murders in which the victims are found drained of blood.
Even more unsettling are Fenice's continuing dreams -- the same dreams she had on the ship -- which are now more real, vivid, and disturbing than ever. The strange man she keeps seeing in these dreams is both alluring and repellent, and as the days progress he invades Fenice's thoughts by day as well as by night.
When the strong-willed Fenice tires of being bullied by the market thugs, she ends up in a scuffle with one of them and bests him handily. But her victory is short-lived: The rest of the gang targets her for revenge, and the situation escalates into a matter of life and death. From out of a night's fog comes the man from Fenice's dreams, his strange allure now more compelling than ever. Fenice learns that this stranger can offer her the very adventure and freedom she longs for, though at a terrible price. But with nowhere else to turn, she follows him to his mountaintop castle, where she will exchange her life and her soul for the promise of eternal pleasure.
The Soul of an Angel is a dark, erotic tale of wicked pleasures and bargained souls, real history and timeless legend, sensual power and corrupted passions. Yarbro draws her characters with the finest of detail, imbuing them with a life force that transcends both the story and the page. Exquisitely crafted and wholly unforgettable, this second in Yarbro's Sisters of the Night series portends that this fascinating trilogy will be as immortal as Dracula himself.
--Beth Amos Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night and Cold White Fury . She lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is at work on her next novel.