I was recently browsing the shelves at my local library branch, when I noticed that the only book by Tim Powers on the shelf was On Stranger Tides. This was likely on the shelf due to one of my earlier recommendations: I had told the staff that the Pirates of the Caribbean film was loosely based on Powers’ novel. As I was checking out, I saw his most recent novel, Hide Me Among The Graves. This novel is a sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, although it doesn’t need any previous knowledge of the earlier book.
This latest novel takes place a generation after the events in The Stress of Her Regard: the poets Shelley, Byron and Keats are long dead, and the Nephilim, the pre-Adamite stone creatures with vampiric tendencies have been banished, along with their poetic gifts, when a new wave of poets unknowingly invite them back.
I’m not as familiar with the works of the Rossettis as I am with those of Byron, but once again, Powers works his magic, weaving a fictional secret tale with historical records, which in some ways seems to make more sense than the original records.
The tone of this novel was also slightly different from The Stress of Her Regard. Where the earlier novel focused a great deal on blood and bloodlines, this novel focused more on kinship and family. This is seen as well by the choice of protagonist, and his relationship to characters from the original novel. The way in which this Powers writes in the previous history is actually quite clever, as it again enhances this novel for those who have read the first, but does not rely on any knowledge from the earlier book. Hide Me Among the Graves stands perfectly well on its own merits, although I highly recommend reading the earlier book as well.
Structurally, Hide Me Among the Graves is divided into several sections, each separated by a number of years. These breaks work in several ways. The breaks offer dramatic irony: the characters in the story believe the threat is over, while the reader is well aware that it has returned, and the threat is ever more dire than before. The intervening period also allows the characters to drift apart, and form new relationships, making the inevitable reunion a tense negotiation of personal alliances.
I didn’t find Hide Me Among the Graves as intense a story as I found The Stress of Her Regard. The earlier novel felt more primal, more mysterious, than the more recent novel. Perhaps this is due in some part to the nature of the protagonist. In the earlier novel, the protagonist is a complete newcomer to the hidden world of the Nephilim. He has no prior experiences to prepare him for these supernatural events. In Hide Me Among the Graves, the protagonist has stories from his parents which prepare him in part for the supernatural events.