You know what I found interesting about these two books? They are both just about as good as the first two — I think. (It’s been a while since I first read Those Who Hunt the Night.
It seems to me that sometimes Barbara Hambly isn’t quite so consistent through a whole series. For some reason three of the books of the Free Man of Color mystery series just don’t sing or me. Well, I know why I didn’t much care for one of them: the latest, Ran Away. I didn’t appreciate the flashback-heavy structure of the story, and the Muslims-can-be-nice theme seemed heavy-handed. But I wasn’t too keen on the Mexican one, Days of the Dead, but in that case I never did figure out why. And I’m sure there was another I wasn’t too keen on, but I don’t remember which one it was. Despite all this, let me just mention that this is still my favorite murder mystery series of all time. I will be right there for the one due out in May — Good Man Friday. It’s going to feature Henry Viellard, Minou’s protector, if you remember, and Henry’s new wife Chloe, whom I loved from the previous book that introduced her.
And with regards to Hambly’s fantasy, Elaine T was quite right in her earlier comment re: the sequels of Dragonsbane. They weren’t exactly dreadful . . . not exactly. But the characters were fairly unrecognizable compared to the first book. And the plot got pretty baroque, especially with that little jaunt to a modern world, do you remember that? I’ve actually tried to block it, myself.
And Mother of Winter, a sequel to the Darwath series, was just dreadful, imo.
Let me just re-emphasize that I love Hambly, generally.
For one thing, Those Who Hunt The Night is SO GOOD. James Asher is a great male protagonist, his wife Lydia is a wonderful female protagonist, Simon Ysidro is fabulous as a vampire who is definitely not the least bit sparkly. It’s a wonderful suspense-filled fast-paced story with excellent writing, and it just brings turn-of-the-century London absolutely to life. And the second book, which till last week I thought was it for the series — Traveling With the Dead — honestly, it’s just as good. I just re-read it. Wonderful how Hambly handles Ernchester and his wife, Anthea. All these sub-plots echoing and reinforcing each other, very impressive.
And now with Blood Maidens and Magistrates of Hell. So glad to find out about these. We sure are getting a world tour, aren’t we? Vienna and Constantinople in the second book, St. Petersburg in the third — plus a whirlwind tour of half Eastern Europe, it seemed like — and then CHINA in the fourth? I can hardly imagine how much research Hambly had to put into these books. The setting and description is wonderful, seriously. Each one drew me in effortlessly and kept me turning the pages right till the end. Of course I knew she wasn’t going to do anything quite so horrible to Ysidro in the fourth book, but whew, glad I was right about that.
I do look forward to re-reading Magistrates next year or sometime. Did Hambly cheat with that one character who turned out to be the Master of Peking? I’m sure she didn’t. I really want to re-read the book and appreciate how she handles that. I don’t know that I actually believed in the Others, but then they were totally crucial to the plot, so I can tolerate the aspects of them I don’t believe in. Although someday I wouldn’t mind asking Hambly what in blazes she thinks ten million rats are LIVING ON down in that mine. Come on.
But okay, okay, moving on, did I mention I loved the Chinese setting?
Seriously, Hambly’s vampire novels leave nearly all of the current fad vampires in the dust. Even if you think you’re tired of vampires, if you love historicals, you owe it to yourself to try these.