Friday, December 24, 2010
Blood Maidens by Barbara Hambly
I've been reading Barbara Hambly's books for a good many years now. She took a hiatus from writing fantasy novels a while back, and started writing historical fiction with her Benjamin January series, which had its share of magical mystical facets, but wasn't strictly fantasy. She also began the Don Simon Ysidro series, which was also historical fiction, but involving vampires this time. This is the third in that series, which begins with Those Who Hunt the Night and Traveling with the Dead. Hambly dropped the series in 1988, and I was quite surprised and delighted to see it continued 22 years later. This series is set around the turn of the 20th century, and Hambly has done a beautiful job of researching and describing the historical setting.
James Asher and his lovely wife, Lydia, are back in this book. Asher has quit the British secret service, and is living the happily married life of a professor. He is contacted in his dreams, though, by Don Simon Ysidro, an ancient Spanish vampire, and asked (coerced) into journeying with him to Petersburg in Russia to investigate a potentially dangerous connection between vampires and the Kaiser's intelligence services. It is rumored that they are researching a way to make vampires able to endure sunlight, which would make them, with their other powers against mankind, the perfect spies and assassins.
So Asher travels with the Don to the heart of Russia, where he still maintains a few friendships with some of his espionage contacts, and tries to track down the connection. Along the way, he is constantly under threat by the vampire masters of the city of Petersburg, and also the vampires that "live" in other cities in Europe where he and Ysidro pursue the trail. His wife, Lydia, is a researcher of blood and serum disorders, and eventually she also travels to Petersburg to make connections with other doctors and scientists there. She, as might be expected, ends up in grave and deadly danger from which Asher and his vampire ally, Don Simon, must rescue her.
Some interesting plot twists make this a fun one, and I hope we can see more of Asher and his lovely lady - sooner, this time.