Sometimes my book finds are so random that for a while I don’t even know what I’m reading.
Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers
Find it on: LibraryThing
What it is:
A vampiric gothic story taking place in Victorian London. Vampires (known as Nephilim here) are prehistoric creatures trying to demolish London with the help of the Rossetti siblings, of all people, and some lesser known poets. This is also a second part in a series, which I didn’t know until later (but it didn’t seem to matter a lot).
How I found it:
Actually, I had it on my to-read list but forgot what kind of book it was and got it mixed up with something more serious. So while reading the prologue I was all set to reading Serious Literature (and actually the writing didn’t set me straight for a while, so good for Powers, I guess) and it was only later that I realized “Wait a minute, it’s vampires in Victorian London, not Big Issues.”
For the genre it’s impressively ambitious, if not exactly exciting to read.
Best things about it:
It paints the period quite well and focuses on building the gothic atmosphere, rather than on simple horrorific scares or fantasy adventures. The characters are written carefully, with a lot of attention given to their motivations and dilemmas and the vampires do not turn out to be your usual dark, broody gentlemen.
Worst things about it:
For all its pluses, it remains a bit heavy with all the attention paid to descriptions. It takes quite a lot of reader’s concentration but doesn’t necessarily pay off with such an intricate story that would explain the plethora of details.
✤ The (literal) underworld of London is memorable and carefully imagined.
✤ If you’re like me, you might enjoy the facts taken from actual history, like the exhumation of Rossetti’s wife and how it becomes a part of the plot.
✤ At times it becomes repetitive, adding to the great length of the book. Of course, the length is relative to its contents: I read longer books without feeling their wordiness but here I had the sense that the novel would gain much from shortening.
✤ It kept me wondering about the morality of using real people (even if long dead) for this kind of story. Neither Rossetti nor Swinburne are drawn in a very flattering way and while they had their faults, consorting with vampires probably didn’t count among them.
How it enriched my life:
Despite its slowness I enjoyed the book well enough.
There was a time when I loved Rossetti’s paintings (and I still find them very pleasing) from the moment when I saw a picture in my high school literature book.
I might give Powers another chance because while this book didn’t necessarily charm me (despite all the ingredients for something to delight me specifically), I appreciate his strengths as a writer, particularly the vividness of his imagination.
People who enjoy their fantasy slow and historical, with romances and shootouts replaced with character studies and literary references.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Next time: The Tick (Also, if you’re confused about the current scheduling – are you though? – for now we’re down to a weekly review, with Saturday posts on hiatus.)