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Tim Powers
Hide Me Among the Graves

William Morrow / HarperCollins
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-061-23154-4
Publication Date: 03-13-2012
528 Pages; $25.99
Date Reviewed: 08-24-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  Fantasy  General Fiction  Horror  Science Fiction  

There are worlds to be found between the words. The symbolic ambiguity of language leaves the door open for all sorts of creatures and creations, the problem being that they needs must be invoked with language and story. It is one thing to read the words of writers from the past and re-interpret them; it is entirely another to find stories and worlds there. Tim Powers, apparently at the height of his powers, has managed just that in 'Hide Me Among the Graves,' a superb novel that evokes the supernatural powers behind the Pre-Raphaelite poets and painters. It's a rich, evocative, atmospheric novel that is also a compelling work of page-turning delight. It's the reading experience at its most rewarding.

The novel begins with young Christina Rossetti and a small statue held by her father. There's something more to this piece of rock than one can see, as Powers' descriptions immerse readers in the Victorian world of London and the supernatural world he has created in the shadows. As the cast grows and the world grows and the shadows lengthen, Christine, her brother Dante and her sister Maria, will join John Crawford and Adelaide McKee as they search for a means to contain a virulent, many-formed species of supernatural being that has been unwittingly unleashed on the world.

The base with which Powers builds his work is a prose style that finely detailed and descriptive, but, most importantly, knows what to leave to the readers' imagination. Powers has a unique feel for suggesting just enough creepiness and decay, and hinting at science-fictional notions behind his various species of vampires and ghosts. But he never goes overboard, and in 'Hide Me Among the Graves,' he manages to write his fastest-paced book yet. 'Hide Me Among the Graves' is easily read, but feels substantial and intense without ever being overwrought.

With a historical novel of the supernatural, Powers has two world-building chores, and he manages them both with perfect ease, carefully filling in the missing bits of history with supernatural explanations. He re-defines the lore we know, and adds bits of new lore that slot in perfectly; for example, we learn that ghosts are ashamed of being dead. These tiny fillips go long way towards making his supernatural world perfectly plausible. His visual re-creations of London and beyond have a depth and dimensionality that make them particularly immersive. Even without the supernatural aspects, 'Hide Me Among The Graves' is a superb historical novel.

The driving force for 'Hide Me Among the Graves; is Powers' cast of compelling characters. Those taken from history, led by Christina Rosetti and a utterly engaging Algernon Swineburn, always feel comfortable and lived-in. We never get a "walk on appearance" feel in Powers' historical characters. They are and they feel integral to the story he is telling and the narrative as it unfolds. The created characters, primarily Adelaide McKee and John Crawford are very nicely weighted and drawn; they fit perfectly with the real characters and seem just as real. By virtue of his steady prose presence, Powers keeps his cast consistent. You'll enjoy the story no matter who is on stage at the time.

'Hide Me Among the Graves' is powered by a terse and intense plot that plays out across years — a plot dictated by the reality of the poets' and painters' lives, but laid out by Powers in manner so as to keep the tension high until the last page is turned. This is of course where Powers finds his story and his worlds. By filling in the gaps between historical events with well-crafted supernatural back story, Powers manages to make real events seem numinous while grounding his supernatural and science fictional speculations in reality. The delicate feedback loop between the two is sustained by his prose and the intensity of the characters he creates.

While 'Hide Me Among the Graves' works fine all by itself, readers new to Powers might want to step back and pick up his earlier novel, 'The Stress of Her Regard,' and his recent short story collection, 'The Bible Repairman,' for the novella "A Time to Cast Away Stones." While neither is necessary for completely understanding and enjoying 'Hide Me Among the Graves,' both inform the novel and involve characters who appear here. You really cannot go wrong reading more Powers.

'Hide Me Among the Graves' is quite possibly Tim Powers best novel; a statement that begs qualification in that all of Powers' work is essential and enjoyable reading. Here, however, he finds a sense of urgency that matches the rich nature of the worlds and characters he creates. 'Hide Me Among the Graves' is a book that demands to be re-read as it re-writes the world.

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