London, 1862. A city of over three million souls, of stinking fog and dark, 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.
Victorian London is 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.
So states the publicity for Tim Powers eagerly anticipated novel. This is the first Powers novel I have read and I wanted to see for myself whether it lived up to its promise.
This is very moody and atmospheric. I love a good gothic thriller, and this one manages to build interest and suspense with its shape-shifting vampires, nephilium and ghosts. Here séances take place in a fog-shrouded London that boasts secret tunnels and lairs.
Packed with mystery, matters of the occult, the supernatural, and a family like no other, this is top-notch literary entertainment.
This Victorian London is a city within a city; the novel is also rich with sexual undertones in repressed 19th century society. John Polidori looms large over everything and his presence keeps this interesting.
My only gripe is that despite the fascinating premise, painstaking research, mood and tone, the story falters at times, and I found most of the characters a little flat. For people who are constantly being stalked by vampires they are a remarkably stoic and composed bunch! I know they are Victorians but no one is that calm!
My overall impression is this is a strong ghost-come-vampire novel, which should appease existing Powers fans, but might confuse newcomers. Perhaps when I read the prequel ‘The Stress of Her Regard’ (released in September) I will have a greater appreciation and understanding of this one.
Published 2012 by Corvus an imprint of Atlantic Books
Review by Daniel Cann
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