It was a brilliant plan to win the war.
What if the Third Reich could own the night?
What if they had a Division of Vampires?
And if those Vampires didn’t stop?
If they had plans to conquer the whole world?
Even Heinrich Himmler hadn’t thought of that. But in Transylvania someone had. And on the Winter Solstice of 1944, the world would be at their mercy.
Hitler, Nazis, and the Occult. I’m not sure why they seem to go together so well, but they just do. Being a fan of video games who have gone far with this concept, including Castle Wolfenstein and BloodRayne, I love the idea that there could be vampires in the SS ranks.
In Richard Rhys Jones’s novel, Division of the Damned, the basic premise is that there are vampires in the Nazi ranks. The human soldiers set out to stop the fanged baddies, except there’s a very powerful vamp, The Dracyl, who wants to use his vampire army to wipe out all of humanity, and he’s got none other than a powerful demon at his side to help him. Except there may be more dissension in the ranks than he’d like to believe.
We first get acquainted with one of the central characters, Von Struck, a short-tempered Standartenfuhrer who gets in trouble and as a result meets Heinrich Himmler. To make up for his indiscretion, he’s assigned a special mission. He’s told that there are pockets of Germans all over Europe trying to maintain their culture but struggling. One of these, the Siebenburger Saxons, come from the ancient colony of Siebenburg, also known as Transylvania. The SS have received a letter from a Romanian Count, Dracyl Blestamatul, who offers the services of his Siebenberger regiment.
Himmler thinks the Germans can win the war with this one regiment. So, Von Struck has to go to Klausenberg with his best men and meet up with the Romanian Count to discuss terms. Of course, Von Struck is an atheist who doesn’t believe in anything remotely supernatural, but he’s not so stupid that he’s blind to what’s going on around him once he gets to Romania. Himmler just outright says that the Count has vampires, soldiers who can see in the dark. One of the guys who has to tag along is Doctor Ernst Rasch, an awkward and standoffish fellow whose job it will be to vet the Count, and make sure that his vampire soldiers can be “cured” of their allergy to sunlight.
And although they have a very important role to play in the overarching plot, our protagonist, Major James Smith, has a much harder road ahead of him. An English orphan who fought his way up the ranks, Smith is shocked when he learns that the Count has asked for him by name. When he arrives, he meets the beautiful and elusive Maria, one of the Count’s most devoted subjects, who wastes no time cozying up to James. But it’s when he meets the Count that things get more interesting, for not only is the Count his brother, he’s also his (gasp!) identical twin. Dun, dun, dun! lol
The backstory between these two and how they got separated, and why one of them is a vampire while the other one remains human, is fascinating, although the delivery in some of the expository dialogue could have been trimmed by quite a bit. But engaging characters, shifting and interesting loyalties, a great historical backdrop, and an exciting plot make this book a must-read, not to mention the use of old school “we want to eat humans and we don’t sparkle” camp of vampires that hardcore bloodsucker fans will relish. I also found the author’s incorporation of Sumerian mythology and its fusion with Jewish legends, demonology, books of blood, stories of Christian knights, and vampirism to be a dynamic combination that gives this novel a leg up on the competition. Although I didn’t enjoy the destiny elements relating to James and Dracyl, Division of the Damned has a fantastic cinematic quality that will have vampire fans drooling and definitely wanting more.