A strangely comforting trauma

I’ve been very sick (flu!) and very busy, but at last have time for a quick review of a remarkable book:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.

You just know that things are going to go bad from the moment when a very drunk Michael Crawford, on the night before his wedding, puts his wedding ring on the finger of an ancient female statue. In the middle of a stormy night. For safekeeping. He has reason to regret that decision very soon.

This book is not for the faint hearted. These vampires may sparkle at times, but they bite hard too.  And yet they are not just evil monsters. They fit into our world with Tim Powers’s convincing mixture of science, magic and poetry.
It also features real historical characters such as Byron, Keats, Shelly and Mary Shelly. In Tim Powers’s reality there is a close link between vampires and the poetic muse, and some poets are willing to put up with quite a lot of danger if it keeps them writing.

This is a cruel book. Fingers are shot or bitten off, throats are cut, eyes are gouged and many of these wounds are self inflicted. As with the other Powers’s books, you are taught very early on that the characters are not safe and wont be rescued at the last moment. This makes things a lot more tense and exciting, and in the end, also very moving. The hero and heroine are mauled and savaged and yet they survive. Despite being traumatised and permanently scarred, they remain true to some deep part of themselves, and to one another. I found that strangely comforting.

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