is an early book by George R. R. Martin
, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire
series. It tells the story of Abner Marsh, the owner of a small steamboat company in 1857. He's approached by a mysterious stranger named Joshua York, who wants to go into a partnership with him in creating the greatest steamboat on the Mississippi River. York and his friends are pale, never go out during the day, and drink a strange and horrible-tasting liquor constantly. In the initial run of the steamship, the titular Fevre Dream
, York holds up the schedule with mysterious several-day errands, frustrating and raising the suspicions of Marsh. Eventually it is revealed that York and his companions are vampires, but ones that have conquered their species' need to feed on humans, and are now looking for other vampires still enslaved by the "red thirst". Once they get to New Orleans, York and Marsh have to contend with Damon Julian, an ancient and powerful vampire who opposes York's plans and draws several parallels between the vampire/human interrelationship and the racism present in the deep south at the time. For a vampire book, it is refreshingly absent of the kind of angst often associated with the genre. Also, the author spent a lot of time researching historical details to realistically capture the world of Mississippi River steamboats in the pre-Civil War era.
This book provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Damon Julian, who always acts polite, and offers Marsh a meal.
- Ambiguously Evil: Joshua, whose motives and nature are kept a secret for the first third of the book.
- Ancient Evil: Julian, who's several thousand years old.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: The strongest vampire of a pack is acknowledged as the "bloodmaster," and at least apparently holds complete dominion over his underlings.
- The Atoner: Joshua York's raison d'etre.
- Author Appeal: Marsh is a Big Eater, and the book includes a copious amounts of Food Porn.
- Badass Crew: The core crew of "Fevre Dream": Abner Marsh, Mike Dunn, Mr. Jeffers, Toby... Sadly, they ain't badass enough to deal with the thousands years old vampire lord.
- Cultured Badass: Joshua York, to the core. His penchant for poetry even rubs on Marsh, of all people.
- Julian downplays this trope. While he's ungodly powerful, he cares very little for history, poetry, reading, and other finer things in life, using them more as a front to keep up appearances and hide the primal, bloodthirsty monster resting within.
- Beauty Is Bad: The vampires themselves, whose favoured victims are humans possessing youth and conventional beauty.
- Becoming the Mask: Joshua York is a Friendly Neighbourhood Vampire because he grew up around humans and started to see them as more than just "cattle". Damon Julian mocks him for this on several occasions.
- Big Bad: Damon Julian.
- Black and Grey Morality: Within the vampies' circle, it's stressed that many of them are not inherently bad people, but more slaves to the red thirst who kill for strength and sustenance rather than to derive any real pleasure from the act of murder. On the other hand, Julian's approach — which essentially boils down to Kill 'em All For the Evulz — has many eager followers.
- Body Horror: Vampires are not a pretty sight after having been out in the sun.
- Boom, Headshot: Abner Marsh finishes Damon Julian with a point-blank headshot. From the both shotgun barrels.
- Comic Book Adaptation: Published by Avatar comics.
- Consummate Liar: Julian.
- Cool Boat: The Fevre Dream itself. Designed to be the fastest steamboat on the river, as well as one of the most luxurious for its wealthy passengers.
- Cruel Mercy: Damon Julian loves this trope. He has a long history of abandoning his mortal thralls after their use evaporates, often in such a state that they simply cannot function without him, even if they're aware that they've been used and lied to.
- He also does this with Joshua. Rather than kill his most treacherous underling, he bleeds and feeds upon him repeatedly to demean him, frequently defeats him in battles for the rank of bloodmaster, and was in the process of breaking his will through Marsh and Valerie too.
- Dark Is Evil: Julian.
- Death by Childbirth: Vampire pregnancies are extraordinarily risky, which is how Joshua's mother died. Among his reasons for wanting to establish a truce between vampires and humans is his belief that modern medicine can remove some of that risk.
- Death Seeker: Joshua believes Damon is immensely bored with life, but his inner beast won't let him die. Therefore, Damon amuses himself by taking big risks, like offering Sour Billy's job to Abner despite the probability of Abner trying to kill him when his guard is down.
- Defector from Decadence: Valerie, who was living in fear of her bloodmaster, abandons Julian's cause and flees with Marsh and Joshua when the opportunity presents itself.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: It takes place around the time of the American Civil War, so it's to be expected. Marsh accepts slavery and racism as normal for most of his life, until receiving a Breaking Speech from Damon, who points out that his own feelings toward humans aren't all that different from a typical white southerner's feelings toward colored people.
- The Determinator: Marsh, Joshua, and Billy. Julian too, though only when his beast has stirred.
- The Dog Bites Back: The last act of Sour Billy Tipton, once he's outlived his usefulness and finally accepted the truth, is to partially blind Damon during his final showdown with York.
- The Dragon: Sour Billy Tipton to Julian. He's a mix of The Igor and a Battle Butler, seeing to the day-to-day running of Julian's various fronts, venturing out into the world on his boss's behalf (mostly to abduct unsuspecting victims), and serving as Julian's guardian and protector during daylight hours.
- Empty Shell: Joshua believes this to be Julian's true nature: an evil monster with no true goals or motives, who lives only to bring carnage to the world because he knows no other way to live.
- Enemy Within: All vampires suffer the onset of the red thirst, except Damon Julian, who was old enough to outlive it.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Joshua York was never what you could call evil, but he always viewed his feeding on humans as a regretful necessity. His hatred at humans that attempt to act like vampires is unbridled.
- Evil Is Deathly Cold: Vampires are often preceded by a chilling cold.
- Evil Is Petty: Billy and Julian are both guilty of this for different reasons.
- Evil Only Has to Win Once: A complete inversion: Julian repeatedly defeats and demeans Joshua, and enjoys several years of life unopposed after taking over the Fevre Dream. However, the one time Joshua had defeated him in a bid for control haunts Julian, and the nature of this victory proves to be Julian's undoing when Marsh realizes why it had happened.
- Eye Scream: Sour Billy Tipton puts out one of Damon's eyes during the final battle, and after Joshua tears him apart, he rips out his other eye as an offering once his will breaks.
- Face-Heel Turn: Katherine, one of York's group, enthusiastically goes over to Julian's when she has a chance.
- Friendly Neighbourhood Vampire: Joshua York and his companions. They drink a potion invented by York that quenches their thirst for human blood.
- For the Evulz: Julian's entire motivation. He believes vampires exist to feed upon the "cattle," who should accept their role as the lesser species. Ironically, Julian himself is not afflicted by the red thirst, and kills only for the pleasure of it.
- Gonk: Abner Marsh has bad skin, bad teeth, a pug nose, squinty eyes, and a scruffy beard. He's fat at the beginning of the book; later, he loses weight and ends up being all the uglier by virtue of being saggy-looking.
- Somewhat averted in the graphic novel adaption, where he's drawn to look like a stout, average looking man with a thick, full beard, to the point where you wonder what people are talking about when describing how ugly he supposedly is.
- Also, Sour Billy Tipton.
- Heel-Face Turn: Valerie and Jean, two of Julian's group, join Joshua willingly and believe him to be some sort of vampire messiah.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Damon Julian may be have occasional flashes of brilliance, but Sour Billy Tipton runs all his affairs to such an extent that Julian would clearly be a sad sight without the aid of Billy or someone like him. On the Good Guys' side, Mr Jeffers fills this role for Abner Marsh.
- I Control My Minions Through...: Damon controls his vampire entourage through a variety of methods. Some flock to him out of preference, others obey him out of respect and/or fear for the bloodmaster, while others do so out of tradition: it's unheard of for a vampire to oppose the bloodmaster.
- Left Hanging: We never do find out how Joshua fared as the undisputed bloodmaster, and whether or not he succeeded in his goal to bridge the gap between humans and vampires. The "dark city" and such myths of a vampire paradise are not alluded to again either, and it's unknown what became of Joshua's child. Joshua's last appearance, several decades after the final chapter, is visiting Marsh's grave.
- Manipulative Bastard: Julian, very much so. Joshua himself too, with a tragic example in his backstory.
- More Than Mind Control: Vampires possess an innate personal intensity and magnetism (often described as being exercised through their eyes) that allows them to easily prey upon humans' minds and wills.
- Red Baron: The head vampire is known as the bloodmaster.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Damon Julian and Joshua York. They even wear corresponding colors most of the time and paint the Fevre Dream accordingly.
- The Renfield: Sour Billy Tipton, a human servant of Damon Julian who desperately wants to become a vampire and who is, unlike most Renfields, actually extremely useful to his master. Humans can't really be transformed into vampires, but Damon has told him they can to keep him as a servant. He's also amused by Tipton trying to drink blood and eating human flesh in an attempt to be more like them.
- Timeskip: Most of the book takes place in 1857, but the last quarter of the book takes place in 1870. The epilogue takes place decades later, after Abner's death.
- Meaningful Name: Joshua is a Hebrew name associated with salvation.
- Mercy Kill: Joshua kills a mortally wounded Billy to end his suffering.
- Monsters Anonymous
- Odd Friendship: Boisterous, Hot-Blooded realist Abner Marsh, and cultured, poetry-loving vampire Joshua York, who are Heterosexual Life-Partners by the end of the book.
- Our Vampires Are Different: They're living beings, they can be seen in mirrors, holy water and silver have no effect on them, and they can't turn humans into vampires. However, they also have some of the more recognizable traits of vampires: they're unnaturally strong and fast, they can see in the dark, and they cannot emerge into direct sunlight or else their skin will burn, although it takes several hours before their lives are at risk. Finally, they also have several traits of werewolves: they need to feed on blood on a monthly basis (although it isn't tied to the moon, but instead to the amount of oxygen present in their blood) and they exhibit pack-like behavior: the most mentally strong of the group is its "bloodmaster", and he or she can command the other vampires to his or her will.
- They are also capable of entering a state of frenzy, in which they're even more powerful. When Joshua and Damon finally battle to the death, Abner realizes Joshua isn't powerful enough to win... so he intentionally shoots Joshua with his shotgun to send him into the frenzy via pain. It works.
- Really 700 Years Old: All of the vampires are Older than They Look, though Damon Julian is old enough to have seen the fall of Rome and even outlived the red thirst.
- Redemption Equals Death: Valerie, who dies shortly after abandoning Julian's cause.
- Shrouded in Myth: Joshua invokes this when speaking of the nature of his race. He also personally explored it at length in his backstory, in order to see which legends were true and which were false.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Both Joshua and Julian.
- Spanner in the Works: Julian to Joshua, whose plans to save his race are rendered moot by Julian — the more powerful blood master — conquering him and keeping the vampires firmly in the past. Also, Billy to Julian at the very end.
- The Starscream: Joshua to Julian after being conquered.
- Suicide By Sunlight: Joshua York tries this after his Horror Hunger gets the better of him. He chains himself up outside, throws the key out of reach, and waits for the sun to come up. It's an excruciating process that takes several hours. He changes his mind halfway through, severing one of his hands to get away in time. Despite being very badly burned, he recovers over the course of a week, and even regrows his hand, much to his surprise.
- The Chosen One: Joshua believes he's the vampire destined to save his race, and lead them into a new era of peace, cooperation, and understanding with their human cousins. His followers also believe him to be this, referring to him as the "Pale King." Julian, on the other hand...
- Time Abyss: Damon Julian is ancient even by vampire standards. He's gone by countless names over the ages, but has no real name, because he was born before vampires had language.
- Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain: Abner Marsh and Damon Julian.
- Undying Loyalty: Billy to Julian, whom he believes will turn him into a vampire for his faithful service. Also, Simon to Joshua.
- The Unfavourite: Jean is Julian's least favoured underling, due in part to his inability to properly moderate his thirst for blood. Julian implicitly sends him to his death, swapping cabins with him after suspecting Marsh would come to kill him.
- Vampire Vannabe: Sour Billy, the receiver of Pretender Diss from all sides.
- Verbal Tic: Julian tends to preface his dialogue with an amused "Ah."
- Villain Has a Point: Julian points out that dismissing his take on the food chain is hypocritical coming from humans, who enslave members of their own race for nothing more than a difference of skin colour.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Abner does. It is most satisfying.
- Would Hurt a Child: Julian mutilates and murders a baby just to prove a point.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Billy lives at the mercy of this trope, but doesn't truly realize it until the end.