The Immortal Conquistador is Carrie Vaughn’s fan service for one of the most beloved yet mysterious characters of her popular Kitty Norville Series, Ricardo De Avila, otherwise known as Rick. The novella serves as the fascinating backstory of this character and answers a lot of questions both readers and Kitty herself have about this enigmatic vampire.
The book opens with Rick, fresh off his battle with Dux Bellorum, one of the oldest vampires in existence and the Big Bad of the series. Bellorum, who was one of the soldiers responsible for the capture and crucifixion of Christ before he became a vampire, became a general in Satan’s Army and did his best to bend the World to his master’s will. Kitty, her werewolf pack, and assorted allies (including Rick) fought to stop him. Rick helped in the war with the aid of allies of his own, the Order of Saint Lazarus of the Shadows: a religious organization of vampires devoted to stopping Dux Bellorum and his master. Rick lost many comrades during the final battle with their ultimate enemy. After the fight, Rick goes to Rome to meet with the Abbot to debrief him about the battle and to learn more about this shadowy organization he joined.
We immediately get the sense that Rick is different than most vampires. That was clear in the Kitty series, but it is emphasized again for his own story. His trip to Europe is the first time he has stepped foot in Europe in over 500 years. Vampires are very Old World, even those “born” and raised in the United States, and other places make the trek to pay homage to their progenitors or increase their power via proximity to an even greater source. The Order itself is an anomaly. Vampires are Satanic creations, but even they find Rick to be unusual.
Instead of asking the details of the battle, the Abbot grills Rick about himself. It is rumored that Rick met Dux Bellorum in the past. What was their relationship now? The line of questioning leads Rick to tell his own story, one that Kitty and the audience have been waiting a long time.
Rick starts his story on a battlefield where he is a 19-year-old third son of a minor Spanish nobleman seeking his fortune as part of Coronado’s original expedition. They’re battling the natives of this land, with rifles and gunpowder, overpowering the arrows and spears of their enemies. The Spanish go there for promises of gold, but there is none. They still proceed to conquer the land, which would eventually become Mexico. The story glosses over this beginning, and we speed to ten years later when Ricardo is 29 and an agent of the powerful Spanish governor. Unlike his comrades, Ricardo no longer dreamed of making a fortune and taking it back to Spain. He loved the strange desert land and wanted to make a home there, as his own man.
He comes across an old friend from his Coronado days named Diego. He recognizes Diego immediately. He looks good, and he hasn’t aged a day since he left ten years before. Diego tells of a nearby region rich with the wealth that Coronado promised all those years ago. Ricardo is skeptical but feels he must check it out and report it. When he gets to the region, he finds an abandoned village populated by a lone friar named Juan. Ricardo, a deeply religious man, trusts the priest—to his downfall. Fray Juan is a Master vampire, and Diego is one of his minions. They turn Ricardo into a vampire against his will.
But even as a newborn vampire, Ricardo is still his own man. Despite the urges of his new form, he doesn’t give into them. He defeats his vampire comrades and destroys his sire—a feat known to be impossible. More amazing still, Ricardo builds the life he wants in cooperation with humans—something that’s supposed to be more impossible than a new vampire killing his sire. All is peaceful until vampires from the Old World arrive on Mexico’s shores and turns his life upside down. The rest of the story is how Ricardo returns the favor.
I love this story and highly recommend it. However, I must add a caveat: this is not a standalone story. Though I squealed like a school-girl through each chapter, it was because I was familiar with the series this story was based on and could fill in the blanks and see the Easter eggs for what they were. At one point in the story, Rick recounts his meeting with the (in)famous Doc Holliday in the Old West. From an outside perspective, it would just seem like some random story. A fan would know that the story is one that Kitty, the main character from the previous series, has been begging for from him for years.
Reading this brought back a lot of great memories and inspired me to re-read the stories this one paid homage, too. I’d recommend anyone who loved the Kitty Norville series so the same.
The Immortal Conquistador is available from Tachyon Publications.
Genine Tyson is an African-American writer who traveled East to West to settle in California for the last several years. Since obtaining her creative writing degree, she has done nothing with it except get a job and write on weekends, but things changed. Embracing her love of monsters, magic, and machines, she is working on two novels at once -because writing one isn’t hard enough—apparently. To connect, find Genine on Twitter @geninet or on her blog.