Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
July 26, 2019
“Bruce Woods is a skilled wordsmith who has scored a second triumph with the further exploits of his unconventional heroine. With Dragon Blood, he will doubtless gather an increased following for Paulette Monot and for fans of the steam punk genre, which adds the weight of technological and historical savvy to his well-constructed stories.”
A sensuous vampire once again roams the world to witness and if possible affect the course of history, in this latest in the Paulette Monot series from seasoned author Bruce Woods.
When last glimpsed (in Woods’ Royal Blood), Paulette explored Africa at the behest of, among others, her patron Lady Ellen Terry, who shares her taste for blood. Following those events, we learn that Monot has taken the earnings from her stint in southern climes and set up housekeeping in Washington, DC, but then is called back to London by Terry. Based on her success in her previous assignment, she is being sent to China, a land of great mystery to all but a few Westerners who are now being expelled or killed in the escalating Boxer Rebellion. The “boxers,” men skilled in martial arts, seek to rid their land of foreigners and their leader, Empress Cixi, of her throne if necessary. Monot will join the Red Lanterns, a coterie of rebellious women who have gained their own prominence after being excluded from the ranks of the boxers.
To take on her assignment–meeting with Cixi and supporting her in maintaining relationships with the wider world–Monot will need new hair, eyes and skin. Here Woods steps in with another of the fascinating steam punk touches that infuse his series, introducing his heroine to the newly invented contact lenses that will give her pale eyes the illusion of darkness. Hair dye and herbal baths will complete her new look.
Fortuitously, the first Asian woman she meets on her trek to China, Li-hua, clues her in on hair and makeup conventions so she won’t be considered a courtesan. Li-hua will guide Monot in numerous ways as they enter the chaos of a country in the midst of revolution. She will even spring Monot from jail where the conflicted and harassed empress has consigned her after their initial encounter. But Monot will need more help as she confronts the many human players in the crossfire, including an international spy. With him, as with Li-hua, Monot also makes time for sensual dalliance. But danger is never far away, and she will soon find herself in the clutches of a fire spitting spirit who would gloat to see Cixi’s empire collapse, and will witness this demonic being doing battle with the country’s ancient mythical guardian—the dragon.
Monot is an alluring character despite her self-admitted moody, at times capricious ways. She is quite able, if need be, to kill an adversary by sucking his body dry of blood. But at times she chooses instead to sip a man’s blood while locking him in an erotic embrace, leaving him dazed, weakened, but alive. She will save the Christian missionaries who are fleeing the savage rebel bands, but will also deign to spit on a cross to prove her lack of loyalty to the religious establishment that has absolutely condemned her and her vampire “kin.” Though she can’t help her blood lust, Monot works for the general good of the world as she knows it. She is liberated in almost every way and has finer feelings for the human race she must live among for romance and companionship—and live on for sustenance. Readers will undoubtedly want more of this multi-faceted female.
Quill says: Bruce Woods is a skilled wordsmith who has scored a second triumph with the further exploits of his unconventional heroine. With Dragon Blood, he will doubtless gather an increased following for Paulette Monot and for fans of the steam punk genre, which adds the weight of technological and historical savvy to his well-constructed stories.