As soon as I saw Jeff Miller’s mention of Tim Power’s latest, Hide Me Among The Graves, a sequel to his 1989 book The Stress of Her Regard, I went out (metaphorically) and snagged an e-copy. I’ve been a Powers fan since the ’80’s, and pick up anything new whenever I happen to run across it.
Jeff describes it as a “vampire” story, which is not incorrect, but it’s also pretty much entirely misleading. Powers’ vampires are identified with the Nephilim of the book of Genesis; there’s more of stone than of flesh about them, and they have a tendency to get fixated on individual human beings. The thing is, they don’t usually kill their immediate victims, the ones they fixate on; but they are jealous and tend to kill anyone loved by their victims. This makes them hard to live with.
As is usual with Powers, there’s a historical angle. In this case the light shines on poet Christina Rosetti and her siblings, especially her brother Dante Gabriel Rosetti, one of the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and their friends, including poet Algernon Swinburne. The Rosettis, it develops, were the nieces and nephews of John Polidori, who was the author of Varney the Vampyre, a friend of Shelley, Byron, and company, one of the party at which Mary Shelley began to write Frankenstein, and a significant character in The Stress of Her Regard. As Polidori died under the influence of one of the Nephilim, one might say that he’s a signficant character in this book as well. See, here’s the thing: the Nephilim are like a kind of fatal muse, ultimately destructive but inspiring in the short term.So anyway, I grabbed the book, and alas! it did not reciprocate. I don’t know whether it was the book, or whether it’s me—The Stress of Her Regard is probably my least favorite of Powers’ books—or whether I just wasn’t in the right mood, but I never really got into it. I finished it, mind you, but I read it in dribs and drabs instead of getting caught up in it and staying up too late.
Bottom line: if you’ve not read Powers, he’s worth reading; I’d start with The Anubis Gates, Last Call, or Declare. If you already know you like Powers, read The Stress of Her Regard first, and move on to this one if you like it.