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Baltimore: Or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
Cover Artist: Mike Mignola
Review by Gayle Surrette
Spectra Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553804713
Date: 4 September 2007 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Interview with Chris Golden / Show Official Info /

During the war, when Lord Baltimore was ordered to take his troops across noman's land in the dead of night to attack the fortified enemy positions near dawn, he thought the worst thing that could happen to him was death. He was wrong, so very, very wrong.

We start on a battlefield, where Lord Henry Baltimore, Captain to his men, leads the way through row after row of barbed wire fencing during a new moon night, in order to surprise the enemy. The surprise was on Baltimore and his men, who were cut down and left to die of their wounds on the field. Baltimore alone survived to suffer and fight the strange large bats that came to feast on his men -- wounding one across the face and taking its eye. Baltimore later lost his leg and was sent home just as the plague began to rage across the land. It seems Baltimore, in striking at the carrion eater, had wakened a great evil.

Now we move forward as Demetrius Aischros, sea captain, travels to a tavern to meet Lord Baltimore. At the tavern he meets two others called there by Baltimore: Dr. Lemuel Rose and Thomas Childress, Jr. The men tell each other stories while they wait. It's through these tales that we learn more of Baltimore, the plague, and why these men believe in Baltimore's story. It was very reminiscent of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales as these three pilgrims to the meeting with Baltimore wile away the time telling each other their stories -- the difference being their stories were of their own adventures and meant to highlight what had happened to them to cause them to believe Baltimore's tale.

Between each chapter we get a quotation from Hans Christian Anderson's "The Brave Tin Soldier". Not used in isolation but an integral part of the moral underpinnings of this tale and resonating with Baltimore's childhood as he played with his tin soldiers upon his counterpane. The illustrations by Mike Mignola reminded me of the rough wood cut block prints from my college art class. However, my unschooled attempts in no way even began to approach the artistry of his work. Each picture relates to the story, helping to build the tension with its stark black and white images that become more intricate as the plot thickens or tension mounts. These are snapshots of feeling as much as a snapshot of a place, person, or thing.

Each tales brings you closer to understanding what has happen and the knowledge of what will probably happen next. Will you be correct in your guess? Maybe, but perhaps not totally in the way you think. As the story unfolds you are drawn in and held by the narrative and the almost subliminal support of the graphics until you finish reading and wondering -- now what? It's a book that doesn't leave the mind as quickly as you reach the end -- because you need to finish the tale or accept that some stories don't have a neat and tidy end, even though a natural ending is reached.

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