on 31 December 2012
A really excellent book featuring vampires who are at once scary, pathetic and sometimes verging on the grotesquely comic. One of them is poor Polidori, who becomes involved in with his niece, Christina and nephew Dante Gabriel Rossetti when their father makes a very bad mistake and the nephilim (who first appeared in The Stress of her Regard) re-emerge, along with a vengeful Boudicca, eager to bring down London again. Also involved is the human vet, Michael Crawford and Adelaide McKee, the mother of his child Johanna, a waif about as far from the conventional Victorian heroine as you can get with her fondness for drink, and her worldly knowledge "I know about such things...I was nearly married to a coster boy last year." Adelaide, as well as making her living in the `Hail Mary trade' - the sale of small birds - aves - knows about the strange sorcerous underworld of London, accessed through tuppenny lodging houses, wells and underground passages, whose passwords are preserved in a nursery rhyme: "Origo lemurum, oranges and lemons."
They take on the nephilim with a mixture of esoteric knowledge, mirrors, garlic, silver and basic human decency - the scene where Michael is saved by the ghosts of the cats he has rescued and cared for over the years is well worth a sniffle - altogether I loved it and I can thoroughly recommend it. One for the Children of the Night Award here, I think.
on 6 March 2013
I regard Tim Powers as one of THE great fantasy writers, infinitely more original (and clever) than 99% of the hacks clogging up the fantasy booklists, and I've never really disliked anything of his I've read, but I struggled with this. I found I didn't like the characters much (I haven't thought about Dante Gabriel Rossetti since I was a student trying to impress an art-student girlfriend with my - pretty sketchy - knowledge of the Pre-Raphaelites)and more importantly, there was no pace. The plot plodded along for hundreds of pages without much actually happening. As so often with Powers' work you can still see the cleverness in the writing (the way he weaves real historical events into the supernatural elements never gets old, and is the reason it gets up to three stars rather than two it would otherwise deserve), but in this particular case the plotting and characterisation made it difficult to care.
on 1 December 2013
If you haven't read 'The Stress Of Her Regard' this book will be unfathomable. And if you have read it then this book will be unsatisfying, with paper-thin characters who you won't give a damn about. I gave up after getting half way through. Tim - you can do much better (read 'On Stranger Tides' or 'The Anubis Gates' for great stories).
on 23 February 2015
A sequel to 'The Stress of Her Regard' (with some Expiration Date, Declare and other Power's tropes thrown in). There clearly was a fairly strong idea here, that the burial and exhumation of Lizzie Siddall, Dante Gabriel Rosetti's wife and muse, in Highgate Cemetery was a real life example of the Lucy Westenra sub-plot of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Coupled to this was the idea that the poem 'Goblin Market' by Dante's sister Christina might be autobiographical and the fact that John Polidori, vampire writer of 'Stress of Her Regard', was their uncle, and you have the makings of a first rate Powers historical. Which he unfortunately fumbles very badly. Of the potentially brilliant pre-Raphaelite supporting cast, only Swinburn and the ancient Trelawny of the Romantic era feature. In their place are some wafer thing caricatures, Dr Crawford the 'Veterinarian' (as we don't say in England), McKee the reformed prostitute (a tiresome steam punk heroine, with enough tissue flimsy veneer of Victoriana to say things like 'Mr Carruthers, how dare you mention an ankle in a lady's presence!' while maintaining all the independence and ideas of a modern feminist) and their tiresome daughter Johanna, possibly mislaid from the stage show of 'Les Miserables' or 'Oliver!' as the typical resourceful urchin mid 19th Century capital cities abounded with. These are insubstantial characters whose easy acceptance of the supernatural milieu they move in robs us of much needed exposition. We are indifferent to their fate and frankly 'Either Christina Rossetti, famous poet and carol writer or one of these made up characters must die to satisfy the Vampire's lust!' doesn't really add up to much of a contest.
Overall, I felt the book badly outstayed its welcome. The 1860 part up to Lizzie's burial would have got 4 stars. Returning again in 1867 was tiresome, and pointless and incredibly poorly handled. Spoiler. I would have been happy if Dante digging up his poems buried with his wife were a pretext for staking out his Vampire Bride, but the fact that by coincidence he already had permission to desecrate the grave for that reason was lazy. Then, for goodness sake, everyone came back for an encore in 1877 and an epilogue in the 1880s.
on 24 October 2012
Having worked my way through all 500 pages of this work of "speculative fiction" it's more a case of `Hide Meh Among The Graves'.
Powers specialises in basing his novels around real historical characters (in this case the Rossetti family) and then weaving in some supernatural hokum (in this case vampires).
This is a sequel of sorts to his 1989 novel `The Stress of her Regard' which need not be read first.
I won't go through the plot in detail here. It's reasonably well worked out, and it's linear (which is a bonus point in my eyes as I do get a bit fed up with the dual or triple narratives which are so popular these days, jumping back and forth in time), and the dénouement is professionally arranged.
The setting - Victorian London - seems to be authentically described. It's very well written.
But... but... oh, it's just... meh.
I think the main problem for me was that the characters were all so emotionally disengaged from the plot. They seemed to be parading through the book, through some nice action set pieces, through some (what should have been) creepy settings (the sewers and graveyards of foggy Olde London Towne), as if they were on Valium.
Vampires pop up, little grey ghost children chatter away, but the protagonists react as though puzzled by a crossword clue.
It was all just a bit too dispassionate for me. Perhaps this was the intended effect. I got to the end and it was more like getting to the end of a guide book than a novel.
Oh, Tim Powers. No other author could write so convincingly of fishy ghosts in the Thames, zombie kids and ethereal vampires stalking the Pre-Raphaelites.
For that is exactly what happens in "Hide Me Among The Graves," a distant sequel to Powers' classic "The Stress of Her Regard." This is a horror novel for people with a love of art and philosophy, entwined with grey mist, childhood nightmares and countless quotes of classic poetry -- as well as beloved poets and writers for both villains and heroes.
The Rossetti family has been haunted by the vampiric presence of their uncle, John Polidori, for countless years. But in 1862, Gabriel and his sister Christina begin to suspect that Gabriel's drug-addled wife Lizzie is being preyed on by not only Polidori, but another vampire. Meanwhile, John Crawford is contacted by an ex-prostitute named Adeleide McKee, with whom he once had a brief affair -- and, she now reveals, a daughter named Johanna.
So now McKee, Crawford and the Rossettis must join forces to save the souls of their loved ones -- to save Johanna from Polidori's clutches, and Lizzie from being enslaved as another vampire. When Lizzie dies unexpectedly, they have an opportunity to shatter Polidori's power.
Fast forward seven years. Both Gabriel and Crawford are shocked when their lost loved ones turn up in their homes -- one living, and one undead. Polidori's power has been shattered, but he's determined to regain it by using Christina's blood. Now the odd bunch must reunite before Polidori and his ancient queen use Johanna for their own ends, which could literally tear Britain apart.
"Hide Me Among the Graves" is a vampire novel for people who are literate, intelligent and intrigued by the arts (unlike books like "Twilight"). The book not only has famed poets and artists peppering its pages, but you can feel Powers' love for classic art and poetry seeping through the pages. It doesn't hurt that Powers writes like a poet, with lushly atmospheric prose that clings to you like gossamer-soft spiderwebs.
It's also scary. Really scary. Only a thin grey veil separates the humdrum world of London from the river of fishlike ghosts ("their arms waving like a moonlit kelp forest on the sea floor"), zombie fetii and ghostly vampires, and the people who see beyond that veil are changed forever. And his vampires are truly scary -- they can possess corpses, and they're violently jealous of the people they have claimed.
Powers also excels at taking real-life figures -- Swinbourne, Trelawny, the Rossettis -- and turning them into rich, well-rounded characters. Christina is a particularly compelling character: a devoutly religious woman who is constantly tempted by the dark side (specifically, her attraction to Polidori. Vampire incest?). Gabriel is also fascinating, as an artist tormented by his love for his self-destructing, delusional wife.
And the supporting characters -- the cold-as-ice Trelawny, the strong-willed ex-hooker Adelaide, and the fragile Crawford -- are just as well-rounded, fictional or non-fictional. It's a testament to Powers' skills that he can so easily interweave fact and fiction, giving supernatural explanations for real-life events like Siddal's death or Christina's rejection of her suitors.
"Hide Me Among The Graves" is a must-read for the literate vampire fan -- it's beautifully written, richly-characterized... and scary enough to keep you up at night.
Hide Me Among the Graves sees Tim Powers revisits the world he created The Stress of Her Regard, moving it forward from the early 19th century where Lord Byron, Shelley, Polidori and his associates had come under the thrall of a vampiric entity that served as a muse for their poetry. In the earlier book, Powers dealt with vampire lore in a realistic fashion that not only makes the possession seem credible, but when you read the excerpts of the poetry it supposedly inspired, you could be easily convinced that it could only be written with these events in mind. What was great about the first book holds true of the belated sequel. Mostly.
Starting out in 1862, Hide Me Among the Graves sees members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their close associates similarly under the thrall of dangerous creatures. It's Christina Rossetti whose soul is most in danger having as a young child "quickened" a little black statue belonging to her father that contains the ghost-vampire spirit of her uncle John Polidori. Among those also affected in her family circle are her brother, the artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Elizabeth Siddal. Algernon Swinburne, a friend of the family, is also drawn into the affair when he becomes the victim of another ghost-vampire - a certain Miss B. - that preys on an elderly Edward John Trewlany.
The wider impact of the curse on this circle of artists however also haunts veterinarian John Crawford and a lady of the streets he once briefly knew, Adelaide McKee. Unknown to Crawford, McKee had a child by him, Joanna, who has been taken into the service of these creatures. Following clues gathered from a secret London underworld network of mediums that keep the ghosts of the Thames at bay, they discover that the child is alive and located somewhere in Highgate Cemetery. Powers is at his best in this first section of the book, creating an inventive, creative and convincing mythology surrounding this alternate world of poets resisting strange forces in the dark underbelly of Victorian London.
There are however two other sections to the book that see the characters reuniting twice in the decades that follow these initial events The longer the book goes on however, the less convincing the motivations and methods of Polidori, "Miss B." and their undead creatures become. There's a certain repetitiveness that suggests that the material has been over extended, but sadly the credibility that the author has worked so hard to establish also becomes increasingly strained by a number of unlikely plot twists. Hide Me Among the Graves may not be the author's best work in this field, but fans of The Stress of her Regard, On Stranger Tides and perhaps even The Anubis Gates-period Powers, there's still much to enjoy here.
on 12 November 2012
I thought this book was a decent follow-up to The Stress of Her Regard. The descriptions of Victorian London and its characters were great, and I loved the character of Michael Crawford.
I thought Powers painted Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a bit too sympathetic - I am a huge fan of the Pre-Raphaelites and, based on what I have read, Rossetti was one of the most selfish men who ever lived. Powers also never even mentions Jane Morris, with whom Rossetti was obsessed for the second half of his life, which I find a little strange given the nature of the Nephilim.
However, I really enjoyed the book, as ever with Tim Powers the inclusion of little historical and literary snippets make it all the more exciting, and I would recommend it.
on 12 October 2012
Let me start by saying that i really enjoy Tim Powers works. Read them all, even bought the bible repairman and strange itineraries. Must admit that 'Stress of her regard' was not my favourite and there was a 10 year gap between my first reading it and then actually enjoying it at a later date. Hide me among the graves (its kind of sequel) never really seems to get going and to be perfectly honest i was bored reading it. I kept waiting for it to catch or hook me. It never did. You know how Anubis gates, drawing of the dark, Epitath in Rust, skies dicrowned etc all rock utterly and have more energy, humour, and general rollickingness (Don't get me started on Stranger tides & the wonder of Thomas Edisons Ghost)than can be shaken at with a large stick? Well sadly this doesn't and its a damn shame. Optimism is high for his next novel and with luck i'll get more out of this on a return read in a few years.
on 18 February 2013
I did not like this. I love Victorian literature so thought this quirky take would be fun. However, it was just a bit too daft for me. The romps through London and characterisation of the Rossetti family were cringe-worthy. Writers like John Carey and Andrew Miller bring the past back with greater resonance in my opinion based on reading this novel.