Fevre Dream 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Face Heel Turn: Katherine, one of York's group, enthusiastically goes over to Julian's when she has a chance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.