Winter 1862, London. Adelaide McKee, a former prostitute, arrives on the doorstep of veterinarian John Crawford, a man she met once seven years earlier. Their brief meeting produced a child who, until now, had been presumed dead. McKee has learned that the girl lives - but that her life and soul are in mortal peril from a vampiric ghost. But this is no ordinary spirit; the bloodthirsty wraith is none other than John Polidori, the onetime physician to the mad, bad, and dangerous Romantic poet Lord Byron. Both McKee and Crawford have mysterious histories with creatures like Polidori, and their child is a prize the malevolent spirit covets dearly.
Polidori is also the late uncle and supernatural muse to poet Christina Rossetti and her brother, painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. When she was just fourteen, Christina unwittingly brought Polidori's curse upon her family. But the curse bestowed unexpected blessings as well, inspiring both Christina and Gabriel's work. But when Polidori resurrects Dante's dead wife - turning her into a vampire - and threatens other family members, Christina and Dante agree they must destroy their monstrous uncle and break the spell, even if it means the end of their creative powers.
Determined to save their daughter, McKee and Crawford join forces with the Rossettis, and soon these wildly mismatched allies are plunged into a supernatural London underworld whose existence goes beyond their wildest imaginings. Ultimately, each of these disparate individuals - the sensitive poet, the tortured painter, the straitlaced animal doctor, the reformed prostitute, and even their Artful Dodger - like young daughter - must choose between the banality and constraints of human life and the unholy immortality that Polidori offers.
©2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.; ©2012 Tim Powers
I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.
What do you want from a sequel? Comfort? More of the same? Or simply a continuation? A further exploration that goes somewhere different? There isn't one right or wrong answer. Sometimes it's one thing, sometimes it's something else, sometimes it's a mixture. Tim Powers' Hide Me Among the Graves falls into the latter category - there are similarities to its predecessor, but it is also very much its own book.
You should know upfront that Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard is one of (if not my all time) favorite vampire books of all time. It was one of the first things I reviewed here, and it unlike any other vampire story I’d ever read. What was terrifying about it wasn’t just the inhuman vampires (though they were), but the way it examined the notions of the muse, as well as success and the arts. It remains to this day one of the most frightening books I've read.
Hide Me Among the Graves includes vampires, and some minor characters return, but it’s much more of a dark fantasy adventure than it is dark fantasy horror. It's Doctor Sleep to The Shining. There is plenty of spookiness afoot in séances, ghosts cursed to swim the Thames, and spiritualism. But it never achieves the shocking horror awful lusts of The Stress of Her Regard. It’s almost like the second half of Dracula, where Van Helsing organizes Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward, and the rest of the gang to go a vampire-hunting. There’s danger, but it’s matched with humor and excitement.
It’s also features much more of an ensemble. Where the first book held a relatively tight focus on Michael Crawford (with occasional dalliances into Percy Shelley), the net here is cast much broader. Happily, the ratio of male/female heroes is much more even, which is good. One of the main issues with The Stress of Her Regard is that Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) had so little to do, and was pushed to the side for her husband and friends. This time out, we get the poet Christina Rosetti, street smart former prostitute Adelaide McKee, and young Johanna. They’re joined by veterinarian John Crawford, poet Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and elderly former explorer and adventurer Edward Trelawney. They’re all very different from each other, and due to some of the conflict that arises, the book is surprisingly quite a bit funnier. But that doesn't make this book a comedy by any stretch. There's an unsettling scene early on when teenaged Christina's father essentially forces her to take one of the demonic statues, and sacrificing her to save himself. Many of the characters suffer hellish graveyard sequences and haunted seas. But it's not as disturbing or challenging a novel as The Stress of Her Regard.
Simon Vance is one of my favorite readers in the business, so I was sad he didn’t return here. However, Fiona Hardingham narration was nothing short of excellent. This was no small task, as she had to work to differentiate the various characters – who were often in the same place together, or whose narratives jumped from one to the other. McKee in particular was a lot of fun to listen, as was her salty old-dog take on Trelawney (and when the two of them were playing off each other, it was listening bliss). The rest of the characters felt not only like individuals, but the protagonists of their own stories under Hardingham's voice. It’s the first time I’ve listened to Hardingham narrate, but her voice was easy to settle into hearing, and I hope to hear much more of her work.
All in all, Hide Me Among the Graves is a welcome return to Powers dark, mysterious world of vampires, art, and the muse. I’d be happy to go back again if Powers found himself inspired to keep us up late at night again.
(Originally posted at the AudioBookaneers)
The narrator. This is only my second Audible book, but Fiona Hardingham was lovely, and I'm thinking about trying The Scorpio Races just because she narrates it. She's got a pleasant voice, doesn't narrate too slowly, and does the various British accents with better skill and fluency than most American narrators would.
It was also refreshing to read a vampire story without romance or teen angst. The vampires were evil, made no apology for it, and that was that.
Normally I dislike books which take liberties with historical figures' lives, but this is sort of Tim Powers's thing, and he did it beautifully. He took the Rosettis' real history and filled in his story between the lines, in a sort of way that might make sense were vampires and ghosts real.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
This is a sequel to THE STRESS OF HER REGARD. The two novels share some characters and the same race of Nephlim vampires. The book is pleasant enough but failed to fully engage me. The story seemed so very pedestrian, so devoid of terror, as if Powers were trying to demystify the vampire legend. I’m sure that I would like it more on a second listen. I do think that there is enough here to make it worth my while at a later date.
Fiona Hardingham has a wonderful soothing British accent that reminds me of Susan Adams or Saskia Reeves, two of the better narrators for the novel DRACULA. Her voice is so very pleasant that, unfortunately, she succumbs to the malady of many female narrators: the book seems like it is entirely done by an all girl cast. I often was surprised to realize than one of the characters in a scene was not a female but was supposed to be a male. Sometimes her male voices even have voices that are higher-pitched than the females in the scene; very confusing. As a result, she never manages to become transparent to the text. Her characters are entertaining but somehow never made me believe that they were anything other than Fiona Hardingham.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
As with The Stress of Her Regard, Tim Powers has created historical fiction where the historical details are as accurate as they can get, and the story he weaves draws those details into something truly macabre. It's one of the hallmarks of Powers that makes me admire him as a writer. When I found about this pseudo-sequel to that other novel, my first question was whether or not he could capture lightning in a bottle twice. The previous novel started slowly and built itself into one of the greatest vampire stories I've ever read to date. For the first third of this novel, I was thinking this was a 3-star book. I shouldn't have doubted him.
Where The Stress of Her Regard deals with Byron, Keats, Shelley, etc., as told through the POV of his character Michael Crawford, this one deals with the next generation of poets and artists, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister Christina, via the POV of Crawford's son, now grown and with a life of his own. I say this is a pseudo-sequel for just that reason. The events of the story here are clearly overshadowed by and as a direct result of those in the previous novel, but this does stand on its own as well. On its own, it morphs into a magnificently sinister read. It's only when compared to the original that this one lacks anything. Even so, it's still a 5 star read by the time you hit the halfway point. I know of very few vampire stories that can hold up comparatively. It's because Powers takes the time to set everything into place, and he tells this story as though it were written like the works of the period. It just feels right. As a bonus, because the historical events are there for anyone to verify, the weirdness practically invites the reader to get to know (or to reacquaint with) the Rossettis just as the first one did for Byron and his ilk. It's the perfect on-ramp for (re)discovery of the Romantic era.
I love audiobooks!
This book came highly recommended. But I could not finish it. I got to the next-to-last chapter and gave up. I found the narration really grating---alternately monotonous and histrionic. The characters' voices were awful. There were good things about the book, particularly the period setting in 19th century London and the depiction of the artists and poets of the time, especially the Rossettis. But the narration really grated and honestly the story became more and more implausible and difficult to follow as it went on. I realize this is fantasy, but even in a fantasy novel there has to be some logical plot developement.
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