Friday, May 23, 2014

Hide me Amongst the Graves – review

Author: Tim Powers

First Published: 2012

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: London, 1862

A city of over three-million souls, of stinking fog and winding streets.

Through these streets walks the poet Christina Rossetti, haunted and tormented by the ghost of her uncle, John Polidori. Without him, she cannot write, but her relationship with him threatens to shake London itself to the ground.

This fascinating, clever novel vividly recreates the stews and slums of Victorian London – a city of dreadful delight. But it is the history of a hidden city, where nursery rhymes lead the adventurer through haunted tunnels and inverted spires. And where the price of poetic inspiration is blood.

Telling a secret history of passion and terror, Tim Powers recasts the tragic lives of the Romantics in a gripping and Gothic feat of imagination.

The Review: Having placed this on my wish list, Hide me Amongst the Graves was a birthday present from my better half. What I hadn’t realised was that this is actually a sequel (of sorts), the earlier novel (The Stress of Her Regard) concentrating on Byron, Shelley and Keats. Worry not, however, for this book is absolutely able to stand alone and I enjoyed it so much that I ordered the earlier book as I devoured this one.

The vampirism is very unusual – though Powers does interesting things with standard lore. The vampires are Nephilim – the stone people. There are two primary vampires in this, both of which wear the ghosts of the dead. One wears Queen Boudicca and the other John Polidori. There is also a distinction made between ghosts and souls. The vampires are possessively jealous of anyone they class as theirs and will kill any they feel are close to those they have claimed. They can make lesser vampires and the adventurer Edward John Trelawny is a bridge between the species (as he puts it) as a fragment of a Nephilim statue (the Nephilim are physically small statues) is lodged in his neck and growing within him.

I mentioned playing with traditional lore and the vampires are repelled by garlic and can be injured by silver and iron. They avoid mirrors but if they catch their reflection they can become fascinated and reduced – this can be used to imprison them. Drowning can save a person from the vampires (or prevent them turning) and whilst this may seem extreme near drowning is used effectively during the novel and the river Thames is used to escape vampiric attention. However those who are under vampiric attention become great artists.

The book is a fantastic exploration of the Romantics, the Rossetti family being a core group of characters under the baleful gaze of Polidori. The writing is strong and the atmosphere palpable, the story drags you in and makes you stay. This book comes very highly recommended. 9 out of 10.

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