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Old 02-05-2011, 10:57 PM   #8118
ATDrake
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Received in the mail and read the new hardcover of Barbara Hambly's Blood Maidens, the latest in her Asher & Ysidro series which started with Those Who Hunt the Night, which in my opinion, is one of the best period vampire stories ever.

Although it's a bit annoying that publisher Severn House seems to be windowing UK and North American releases with a delay of roughly 6 months (I hope they stop this practice soon and start sending out the books at the same time), I'm very pleased that they've been picking up long-running series by authors with a following which the original publishers have since dropped and printing new tales.

This installment continues the Edwardian-era vampire/Oxford don/medical doctor team-up murder mystery/spy thriller focus of the series, with a trip to St. Petersburg and the obligatory guest appearance by the guy-most-likely-to-spot-vampires-who-happens-to-be-living-in-Russia which I think is pretty much de rigueur for anything vaguely occultish in that time period.

It's very referential to the 2nd book in the series, dealing with a certain amount of fallout for that. Very spoilery for exactly what happens there, and the mentions seemed a bit on the unnecessarily heavy-handed side. However, Travelling with the Dead is now very out of print and I'm not sure if a totally new reader would welcome knowing what exactly happened last time around, or prefer to have it more vaguely alluded to so it can be more of a surprise should they manage to read the rest.

Overall, it was a very fun and entertaining adventure, with a few twists and turns and an interesting motivation, not to mention a few more details about the past lives of our regular characters.

I'm unsure how to take one particular character revelation, which seems somewhat ungrounded and slightly out of nowhere. This was apparently a longstanding and deeply-held personal grief that wasn't even vaguely hinted at in the earlier books and thus it comes across as perhaps mildly inconsistent with previous established characterization.

That had the decided feel of having been shoehorned in in order to give that character a "moment" where they can be astounded by the unexpected mystic insight of one of the guest stars. But it's not totally out of line, though frankly, I'd have been perfectly happy without it, as would that character, I suspect.

Otherwise very enjoyable and highly recommended for people who like eccentric Oxford dons, Edwardian-era female doctors, Continental travel adventures, and spy thrillers, with or without vampirism as seen from a medical perspective involved. Though if you can lay hands on copies of the preceding two books, you really should read those first.
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