Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers - guest reviewed by beserene
Title: Hide Me Among the Graves
Author: Tim Powers
Publisher: William Morrow
Author Website: theworksoftimpowers.com
Format: Hardcover provided by publisher for review
Rating: 4/5 stars
I read this book, the companion to Powers' The Stress of Her Regard, much more slowly than I expected to. I don't think it was the book's fault, but rather a case of poor timing on my part, but I will say that I was not pulled in to this novel as quickly or as fully as I was with the first. Part of the issue is that any reader who has read the first novel recently (as I have) knows exactly what's going on, which means that this book is much more about characters and interactions than it is about the mystery of the Nephilim, so one doesn't feel as compelled by the sense of wonder and intrigue that characterized the previous experience.
Fortunately, Powers writes great characters. While his characterizations of famous literary figures -- the Rosettis, Swinburne, Trelawney -- are fascinating and genuine, Powers gives us other obscure or fictional characters who really become the focus of the readers' bond in this story. Crawford and McKee are such marvelously ordinary, good but flawed people that one cannot help but feel connected. While the icons of literature are idiosyncratically fun, Crawford -- with his reluctant heroics and authentic reactions -- is a man we could spend time with. Similarly, McKee and Johanna act almost as a bridge between the ordinary and the extraordinary, making the strange twists and supernatural conflicts of the novel seem oddly plausible.
Lest you be discouraged by all this talk of the ordinary, you should be aware that this is still a Tim Powers novel. As is typical, it covers unexpectedly large swathes of time and involves any number of fantastic adventures that occur at a generally unrelenting pace. This novel does not gallivant across the European continent in the way its predecessor did; it has a very strong sense of place, centered on London, and uses the character of the city in wonderful ways. The tone of the novel leans solidly into horror -- there are quite a few adventures into dark places and ending in dark deaths, and the title accurately indicates the ghostly atmosphere -- but there is nothing here that seems gratuitously violent or idly inflammatory. The entire book is tightly planned; Powers even seems to have trimmed some of his tendency toward over-indulgent description, which I sometimes missed. I do love an indulgence.
The overall result is probably one of Powers' most balanced and most marketable books. Thoroughly enjoyable, with rich intellectual and emotional presence, the novel curls and careers down fascinating paths without making the reader feel overwhelmed. While a part of me misses that occasional sense of "WTF?" which characterized other Tim Powers reading experiences, I appreciated the elegant lines of this story. Highly recommended for fans of historical fantasy, historical fiction, dark fantasy or just Very Good Books.