Capitalizing on newfound popularity resulting from the use of his novel On Stranger Tides as the basis of the most recent movie in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Tim Powers has released his first new novel in several years, Hide Me Among the Graves. It is a quasi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, his earlier novel about the romantic poets and their experiences with vampirism. It features some shared characters, particularly the vampiric villain Polidori.
The idea of romantic poets, or in this case pre-raphaelite poets and artists, and vampires seems like something made for the mass market, but Powers’ novel is not one of throbbing loins, flashing fangs and repressed Victorian lust. Powers’ fascination with the mystical and the ritualistic aspects of the occult and his unusual view of the supernatural world are likely to leave fans of True Blood scratching their heads in confusion. Where they would look for fanging and banging, Powers offers complex and conflicted relationships and unwholesome creatures with unnatural appetites. Powers offers us vampires as muses and troubled artists who pay in blood for the inspiration to produce great works.
The narrative focuses on the Rossetti family of artists and poets and their relationship with Polidori, and the efforts of a vampiric Queen Boadicca to work through her attachment to adventurer and Shelley confidant Edward Trelawny to bring about the downfall of London by mating her vampiric offspring to one of Polidori’s victims. Although the historical characters play major roles in the story, much of the action focuses on William Crawford and Abigail McKee and their lost daughter Johanna who has come under the thrall of Polidori. Their struggle to reclaim Johanna and fight the vampires engages the reader and drives the story forward.
Hide Me Among the Graves is a very readable novel despite the fact that it is not what most vampire fans are used to reading. The pace is fast and the characters are interesting, and if your mind is open to it, the cosmography of Powers’ supernatural world is fascinating. He has thought through the relationships between the living and the undead in a very thorough way and presents a logical system in which ghosts and vampires and mystical powers can operate in an otherwise realistic world. The matter-of-fact approach to how the supernatural works and the lack of traditional romanticization of vampires makes how they are depicted more disquieting and more believable.
Powers has always been a writer of considerable depth, and in Hide Me Among the Graves he returns vampires firmly to the genre of horror rather than romance with a story which is strongly written and reminiscent of the best work of Dan Simmons or Ramsey Campbell. Powers has gone for too long without the recognition he deserves as a groundbreaking writer of horror and fantasy and maybe this excellent novel, coming out with a boost from his Pirates of the Caribbean association is just what he needs to reach a larger audience.