Tim Powers has this belief that if he writes historical fiction, it has to be supremely accurate with no liberties taken with the known facts. From there, the story behind the story can unfold. In his case, it’s typically a supernatural story to explain mortal events. One of the hallmarks of Powers’ writing is to make you totally believe it. The more absurd it is, the more you will believe.
The characters are completely engaging, and if you don’t know know more about the likes of Byron, Shelley, Keating, and Polidori, you’ll want to by the time you get to the end of this novel. These characters and their companion, the main character Michael Crawford, are all too human, making the dread of their circumstances feel visceral. The story is told in the same fashion as it would be had it been written in their time, but with a modern awareness of how to make the macabre truly spooky for even the most seasoned veteran of horror. The result is a vampire story that’s not a vampire story, and yet is truly the mother of all vampire stories. It’s the kind of story that, while you’re reading it, you just feel is twisted and wretched and just guilty fun in a lot of wrong ways. Then when you think about it later, you start connecting dots from things you’ve read, just as the characters do, and the little voice in the back of your head starts asking, “what if?” It’s also the kind of story that’s so imaginative that it you’ll probably just want to shake your head sadly at most of the other vampire novels in release today.