Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood by: Lara Parker

“My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning. A journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place, to the edge of the sea, high atop Widows’ Hill. A house called Collinwood, a world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met. People who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.”  This monologued opened the first episode of Dark Shadows on June 27, 1966, and fifty years later Lara Parker released her final novel to date.  This final novel finally tackles the story set out in this opening monologue.  As a soap opera, Dark Shadows’ plot strayed from its original premise within its first year, by the time vampire Barnabas Collins was introduced, and by the halfway point Victoria Winters was written out of the show, the audience no wiser to how her future linked with her past.  Heiress of Collinwood is the final Dark Shadows novel from Lara Parker and the one that is perhaps the most different from the others.  The first thing that strikes you about this novel is that it forgoes the third person limited perspective of the other three for the first-person perspective of the early opening monologues of the television show.  This aspect of the novel is a cue to the reader that this is going to be the story of Victoria Winters, not of Barnabas Collins and the rest of the Collins family.

This is perhaps a risky move from Parker as by the time Vicki left the show, she had been diminished in characterization to a complete background character.  She was given a romance with Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark from 1795/1796 and was sent back in time so the audience could say goodbye, and that is where Parker does start.  It is 1797 and Vicki is miserable.  She’s stuck in the past and while attracted to Peter Bradford, she’s realized just how rash she was.  The book opens with her once again being accused of witchcraft and hanged which Parker uses to bring her right back to the present, in the role of a reporter in Bangor, Maine.  She reports on grisly deaths and serial killers, living on her own, and not staying in contact with the Collins family.  She remembers her experiences at Collinwood and is hiding Barnabas’ own secret, not wishing to reveal that to the rest of the family until the inciting incident of the novel coaxes her back.  The Collins family barely appears in Heiress of Collinwood, this is Vicki’s story and nobody else’s.  The Collins family is missing, and in Elizabeth’s most recent will the Collins estate has been left to Victoria Winters under mysterious circumstances.  It is this which leads Vicki back to Collinwood to actually explore her past, as she needs to find her birth certificate to prove her identity.  This gives Parker a reason to explore the past and reveal that Vicki is in fact the daughter of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard at the book’s climax, and tying her in with later Dark Shadows lore.  The foundling home she was raised in was once owned by Ms. Charity Trask, Magda Rakosi was responsible for helping Elizabeth conceal her identity, and she turns out to be the first person who isn’t a reincarnation of Josette that Barnabas loves.

The only three returning characters in any notable capacity are Barnabas, Willie, and Maggie: Barnabas is still a vampire and is attempting to defeat an evil he sees lurking in the area, Willie has gone mad, and Maggie has become incredibly bitter.  Parker explores each of them excellently and uses this book to restore the status quo by the end and restore Vicki’s relationships with these characters.  Parker excels in introducing two main one-off characters in the Dark Shadows style of being played by the same actors.  Augustus Longstreet is a poor attorney who coaxes Vicki back to Collinsport, and is the spitting image of a Thayer David character, but not the charming type.  Longstreet is the more uncomfortable role that David would play, like Matthew Morgan or Count Petofi, but is not a villain.  He is good at heart and wants to get down to the mystery of the Collins family.  Stephon Vogelsang is a Roger Davis character, and one that seduces Vicki off her track and is revealed to be the mastermind.  He is equally charming and cunning as he manipulates Vicki and the reader through several warnings from other characters.  There is also a descendent of Aristede, but he isn’t really the most important character.  Overall, Heiress of Collinwood is perhaps Parker’s best novel.  It delivers on what it sets out to do excellently and does it without falling back on regular characters for Dark Shadows, leaving the series of novels in their nice little story arc of Parallel Time.  9/10.

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