It’s been several years since I first started reading Markus Heitz‘ “Kinder des Judas” (KdJ – in English: Children of Judas). As it was published in 2007 I got it around that time as well and never really had the chance and the muse to finish it until now. Like last year I thought that over the Christmas days I at least had to try to finish one book, as I can’t remember what else I have read that year – again. When I first picked up the book, after I had chosen it, I tried to continue reading, but soon realized that I would have to start anew, as what I read a few pages before that was just gone.
But let’s start at the beginning.
What is it about?
KdJ is Heitz’ first vampire-story, but not remotely romantic. The story is told through two different time lines: 18th century Serbia and current day (2007) Germany – Leipzig, to be precise.
The history part picks up the story of Scylla a young girl with a hunger for knowledge that loses her mother through the Turks. She is then raised by her (formerly unknown) father to follow him in his scientific studies and to become his successor. The more time she spends with him, the more she learns, but not just through their research. Her father is part of a hidden society of scientists that are calling themselves the Children of Judas and she soon finds out what exactly that means.
In Leipzig Theresia “Sia” Sarkowitz is a caregiver for a hospital, who knows when death is about to visit her patients. But she is also a bouncer and combatant in illegal and nasty fighting matches, just to feel alive. When a young patient dies she decides to write down Scylla’s story. Soon her old live catches up to her. Her brother Marek forces her to remember who – and more importantly what – she really is and to return to where everything began. To the place where she was Scylla.
The reading experience
As I said I started the book back in 2007 or 8. I had read about a hundred pages and never really felt like continuing.
Before I decided to start from the beginning I read a couple of pages to get back into it. I soon found out that where Sia currently was, was a place where I nearly had been last year: The Moritzbastei in Leipzig. She was even at a concert of Das Ich, one of Germany’s oldest Gothic bands, that I actually have partly seen at last years Wave Gothik Treffen (Wave Gothic Meeting – the report for this will be added one day >_< ), in Leipzig. 😀 A thing that meant absolutely nothing to me all those years ago. It was just a location and just a band, no connection whatsoever and now I have memories of a guy with a clowns-hairdo in an industrial hall. 😀
But when I skipped more pages backwards I realized that it would be better to start from the get go again…as I couldn’t remember who certain people even were.
As I am not really a Dwarves fan, my first experience with Heitz (who is mainly known for his novels about Dwarves) were his novels Ritus and Sanctum, about the Werewolf of the Gévaudan and his version of what actually happened back then. Those two had the split storyline KdJ has, as well, so I knew what I was getting into.
Though from what I remember this was a bit different as it occasionally switched between the storyline within one chapter and had several, well, in-chapters. Let’s try again: The book is divided into four parts – called books: Mädchen (Girl), Aeterna, Entdeckungen (Discoveries) und Tod (Death). The chapter numbers continue throughout them. In each chapter there are notes for when and where something is happening, new notes show time jumps within the chapter. And occasionally that jump was into the other storyline.
This itself isn’t really confusing, though the point of view changes. Everything from the past is narrated, current events are told in Sia’s perspective. At one point she writes something and it is in first person as well. This is a bit odd, but you can still understand the different narrations quite well.
At some points I stumbled over spelling mistakes, but the book is from the first printing and things like that can always happen. What bothered me a little more was Heitz’ way of describing things with too much details in some cases, but I’ll get to that later.
Sia herself isn’t really explored until later in the book when most of Scylla’s backstory was revealed. We have scenes with her that describe what she is doing, but you can’t really grasp why she would do that without completely knowing Scylla’s story. Of course the thought that she is Scylla and that she is a vampire (which they are by the way never called, as Heitz’ preferably used the term “upir” and variations thereupon) is always there while you read it, but not addressed until far down the storyline. She is not a character you would like, but somehow none of them are really likeable. Her actions are way more thought-through than Scylla’s and it’s a really nice contrast to the person she once was.
Because, well, most of what is told happens in Scylla’s childhood and young adult years, well up until her 70s… But still, Scylla was forced to grow up fast and had to live through quite some ordeals while growing up. Part of her stayed rather childish when it came to pursuing her goals. It was unfortunately not that much explored how she thought up certain plans, therefore some of her decisions don’t really make sense. At other points she even seems nymphomaniac, as her approach to gain power in man-ruled world is to sleep her way to wealth. Not really a kind of female representation one would like to read, but I suppose it might have been a necessary thing to do back then. Still don’t like it though. She had a brilliant mind (as she was raised to be a scientist) and had to restore to use her body instead….
And the only times she did fall in love didn’t end well…
Because everything boils down to the scientist society, The Cognatio, that has other things in mind with her (scientific) abilities. Members of that include Scylla’s father Karrol, her half-brother Marek and her occasional lover Lydia. Just like Scylla’s reasoning theirs is barely mentioned. Some of it is hinted at, some just not mentioned.
It is a pity, he could have done so much more with those three, but he settled for overprotective father, lovesick brother and shifty love-interest. And barely even mentioned other members of the circle. Thinking about it, Scylla/Sia and other side-characters could have gotten a better treatment as well.
There are no favourites or absolute dislikes in this, as simply everyone has reason’s to do what they do. Sometimes ridiculous or unexplained, yet still a reason…and, well, they are not portrayed enough to get some kind of connection.
If you don’t like explicit descriptions of fights – and I mean bloody and brutal fights – then none of his work is suitable for you. He also has a liability to describe sexual scenes with quite some detail. I don’t mind the blood, but the other stuff should be left a bit more to imagination in my opinion. Beside that, Scylla gets naked for a ridiculous amount of times, especially while fighting and that just bugs me.
Unlike the Werwolf-novels this one couldn’t really capture me, which might explain the break between reading. I don’t really know why, but between long and bloody descriptions of how someone was dissected or killed, the suspense didn’t really build up. You couldn’t guess what would happen next, but the moments where you hoped something wouldn’t happen where quite rare. Additional to that the characterization wasn’t the best either.
It was still interesting to read this different approach on vampires. Heitz created a variation of vampires based on Eastern folk tales, giving them names and abilities accordingly. He used people and places that actually had significance in our world in regards to our belief in these creatures. And as he writes well and fluently I can overlook most of the negative stuff above.
This book is different, not special, not a must-read, but different. A nice diversion to all the romanticisation of vampires these days.
Stuff I’d like to add
Even though this book seems closed, there are two sequels: Judassohn (Judasson) and Judastöchter (Judasdaughters). For the sake of completeness I have them as well, but I have to say, that I don’t really know what story they follow.
And there is a novel called Blutportale (Bloodportals) than somehow uses elements of both stories (Werwolfs and Vampires) and adds new stuff in a new setting. I’ll let you know what I find out when I managed to read all of them. 😉
And: None of them (including KdJ) are sold in English, sorry.
But I wouldn’t mind helping you out, if you were to try and read in in German. 🙂
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