Novel + Manhwa Review: Blood on the Water

Once again, I’m reading very similar things in fairly rapid succession. Both works take place on sea vessels and involve vampires on said vessels. I thought it would be fun to combine the review posts for Blood Cruise by Mats Strandberg (2018) and Noah and the Blood Sea by Yu Satomi (2019-2021).

BLOOD CRUISE by Mats Strandberg

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2018
Buy link: Strand Book Store

Trigger warning: Ableism (challenged), mental illness, alcoholism, drug use/abuse, gore, blood, vomiting, fatphobia (challenged)

The Baltic Charisma is a booze cruise where passengers go from Sweden to Finland overnight. The collection of humans aboard are exactly as you might expect: a one-hit-wonder Eurovision star, a former employee ready to propose to his boyfriend, a family on vacation, best friends looking to party, and others. But no one expects the vampires. It’s a combination of blood drinkers and rage-virus hosts, making this grisly tale of debauchery a fun ride from start to finish.

This book is over 500 pages, and I read it in about three sittings. The pacing is perfect. Each taut POV section leads wonderfully into the next. Sometimes you get to see the same scene or image, but the lens is different. I never once found a single description repetitive. Every new reveal left me stressed out for different reasons. Whether it’s a question of survival, rescue, or what the future looks like if they make it off the trip, there’s never a dull moment.

Strandberg deftly and efficiently characterizes every narrator. Each one has their own unique collection of stakes and backstories. The ones that kept me going are Marianne’s, Abbe’s, and Calle’s. There’s distinct insight into Swedish culture that gives the drinking fest happening aboard its own unique edge. There’s a lot presented that wouldn’t necessarily land the same way if the novel took place in, say, America, which also made it a neat read.

Tensions run so high once the blood starts flowing. It’s a race against time and nature while those who are left piece together how the carnage ensued. I love how much this book leans into both the familiarity and disbelief that the culprits behind the violence might be vampires. It’s disgusting, and the closeness of the interior narrative of the newly transformed feels uncomfortably close.

It’s a romp in the way slasher horror is a romp, with deeply human elements and a chilling ending that makes this wild ride totally worth it.


NOAH OF THE BLOOD SEA Vol. 1-5 by Yu Satomi (2019-2021)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Seinen Horror Manhwa
Year Release in English: 2019-2021
Buy link: Harum.io

Trigger warning: Murder, gore, vomiting, blood, murder

This manhwa came up on some list recommending newer horror properties, and I am so excited to share it with you. A family boards a luxury ferry cruise around the coast of Japan. It’s idyllic until hell breaks lose in the reveal that the cruise is actually a buffet for vampires. Things start going to shit once the ship is beyond the range of cellular or radio communication. The carnage is a lot more organized, which makes it scarier, in my opinion.

The take on vampires here follows an evolutionary lens, where they graduated from drinking blood to eating meat. The traditional weaknesses aren’t present (though they are acknowledged). I loved the detail that blood consumption works like blood transfusion. It gives the humans some time to figure out how to survive, even though the danger is very real.

One of my favorite tropes is when the hero becomes a monster to fight the same monsters. This absolutely happens in this manhwa. The pacing and the reveals are great, which distracts from the blandness of the people we’re wishing would survive. The vampires, however, are deliciously clever, manipulating both with a kind of magic and hypnotic manipulation that seems like magic. There are environments reminiscent a bit of Alice in Wonderland aboard the ship (like an entire forest and a castle within a secret cabin).

If your favorite manga trope is terrifying children who may or may not be the progenitor monster, you’re in for a treat. It’s shame that the manhwa hasn’t updated since August, but I cannot wait to see how the military handles the vampire outbreak.

4 thoughts on “Novel + Manhwa Review: Blood on the Water

      • As long as they don’t sparkle or monologue their tortured immortal lives? I think I’ll be good.
        I’ll have to check it out either way.. I’m a sucker for great artwork.
        Thanks, Jo, have a lovely weekend!

        Like

  1. Pingback: March 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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