In any book a hero needs a villain, and in Magic Bites–the first novel in the series–that villain is the upir, the Slavic version of the European vampire. This is no surprise as Ilona of this husband-wife duo is Russian and the series is rife with references from that area. It nonetheless begs a question: what are the upir and how does this villain differentiate from its traditional portrayal in Slavic mythology?

While the upirs are essentially vampires, they differentiate from their traditional counterparts in two ways. A person becomes one after having rejected God or making a contract with the Devil (similar to the explanation of witches). They also don’t limit themselves to drinking blood. Legends state that they also have a penchant for consuming people’s hearts and even people themselves.

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In Magic Bites, the upir are portrayed as undead creatures who do eat human flesh like their traditional portrayals and even have to be staked in order to kill them. However, they differentiate in that all upir are male–can’t blame the women in this one–and will have sex with any creature that they are able to in order to produce animalistic offspring, although their goal is to find a woman of power who can produce a male child for them.

It is this combination of traditional portrayal with modern tweaks that makes the villain–as well as the novel–so compelling. Everything is presented in such a way as to give it a realistic tinge, as if there truly is a post-magical apocalyptic world in which these creatures come to life.

In truth, I didn’t know half this stuff when I first read the book, but I didn’t need to. The upir’s portrayal is realistic and convincing, as well as what is needed to kill it. With that in hand, there’s only one question left. Who is the upir?

Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and have no artistic claim to it.

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