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Literature: New Amsterdam Books
A series of short stories and novellas by Elizabeth Bear, covering the years between 1898 and 1962 in the life of vampire detective
Don Sebastien de Ulloa. The works are set in a world much like ours, except supernatural things are real and — because magic leveled the playing field — Europeans were never able to settle the Americas beyond the coastal areas, meaning there are colonies instead of the United States for most of the books.
The four volumes in the series as of June 2012 are:
- New Amsterdam (May 2007, Subterranean Press): Sebastien and his court leave England for the British colonies in the Americas, only to find things really aren't any simpler there.
- Seven for a Secret (novella) (March 2009, Subterranean Press): Lady Abigail Irene Garrett lives her last days in a WWII-era London, while Sebastien deals with werewolves.
- The White City (novella) (2011, Subterranean Press): Fleeing a tragedy, Sebastien, Abby Irene and Phoebe Smith land in 1902 Moscow, where an old mystery is resurrected. While this book was published after Seven for a Secret, it is set before it.
- ad eternum (novella) (2012, Subterranean Press): Sebastien returns to New Amsterdam in 1962.
- Garrett Investigates (eBook) (2012, Subterranean Press): Five short stories about Abigail Irene, set between 1879 and 1941.
This series contains examples of:
- Alternate History. Implicit in the concept.
- Ambiguously Brown. In the first book, Sebastien seems to be an olive-skinned Spaniard by birth. Later in the series, it's revealed that his biological father was a Moor, though Sebastien does not know if the man was Arabian or African.
- Anyone Can Die. David's death was bad enough, but then the book kills Jack Priest??? Bear took to her LiveJournal to justify the decisions.
- Can't Have Sex, Ever. Vampires can't have sex, but they get the same thing through biting. It's revealed in The White City that Sebastien died a virgin.
- Deadpan Snarker. Everyone gets to do this from time to time.
- Everyone Is Bi. Not quite everyone, but a substantial minority including Sebastien, Jack Priest and Irina Stephanova, as well as some additional minor characters.
- Fantastic Racism. While being a vampire is legally tolerated in much of this world, most people aren't comfortable with them and there is some legal persecution.
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampire. Sebastien can be cynical, but he is deeply kind and wants to do the right thing.
- Gentleman Wizard. Abby Irene is titled aristocracy as well as one of the few women trained and licensed in thaumaturgy in her world. She'd rather be called Doctor Garrett than Lady Abigail Irene.
- Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have. Abby Irene is in her early fifties when we meet her. She still has quite an active sex life.
- Great Detective. In-universe, Sebastien is such a brilliant and well-known consulting detective that he's explicitly a model for Sherlock Holmes.
- Heroic Willpower. This is why Sebastien can drink from his companions without taking enough to hurt them.
- I Hate You, Vampire Dad. We meet one vampire Sebastien made. Their distaste for each other is mutual. Sebastien's feelings about his own maker are also complicated.
- Informed Judaism. Jack keeps kosher and is regularly referred to as Jewish, but is never seen to be practicing his faith in other ways. Somewhat justified in that he was raised primarily by Sebastien, who does not practice any religion.
- Istanbul Not Constantinople. The first book takes place manly in New Amsterdam, New Holland, not New York, New York. It's explained that the Dutch only sold the land to the British in the early 19th century and nobody thought it was worth changing the names. For similar reasons, Mexico is generally referred to as the Aztec Empire.
- Kiss of the Vampire. Sebastien's bite is all but explicitly paralleled with oral sex.
- Mayfly December Romance. Sebastien with all his human companions, but especially Jack Priest.
- Mrs. Robinson. Phoebe Smith is in her early 40s. Jack is some 20 years younger. She takes a liking to him, which is played sympathetically.
- Most Writers Are Writers. Phoebe Smith is a novelist.
- Mundane Fantastic. Magic is a fact of life in this world, and practicing it in public is seen in Paris as about as gauche as urinating in the street.
- The Older Immortal. Starkad.
- Our Vampires Are Different. Vampires in this series can live thousands of years, and feed primarily on the blood of the willing. They cannot ingest any human food; are strong and light, to the point where they can leap great distances; do not reflect in mirrors; can be photographed; have no particular aversion to garlic or religious objects. Sunlight, stakes and fire will kill them.
- Our Werewolves Are Different. Two kinds: The one in New Amsterdam seems to be an inhuman monster, while the ones in Seven for a Secret are soldiers being given wolf-like powers through magic. The ones in the latter book are apparently immortal and do not age.
- Parental Abandonment. Jack's parents sold him into servitude when he was five; it's implied he was treated very badly until Sebastien purchased him a few years later.
- Polyamory. Sebasten and his court have this kind of arrangement.
- Really 700 Years Old. How old Sebastien looks seems to shift through the books, but it's definitely much younger than his actual age of 1,200.
- Sensual Slavs. The girls in 1897 Moscow are noted as being much freer and less formal than young women elsewhere in Europe.
- Suicide By Sunlight. David dies this way, in what's basically the vampire version of Suicide By Cop.
- Vampires Are Rich. It's noted Sebastien has more money than he could ever spend, though his lifestyle is not especially lavish. In an aversion, the younger wampyr David is a prostitute and it's implied he needs the money.
- Victorian Britain. The setting of the first book in the series, with a hearty dollop of Anachronism Stew that alternate history only somewhat accounts for.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?.Sebastien is largely bored, tired and almost ready to let go of it all. Humans convince him to stay.
- Wife Husbandry. A vampverse variant. Sebastien took in Jack when the latter was seven. Jack became his courtesan at age 16. While their romantic connection appears genuine and strong, other characters are appropriately sketched out by this.
- Wizarding School. Common in this world, where all sorcerers are university-trained. The establishment of a new one is a major plot point in ad eternum.