cover image Traveling with the Dead

Traveling with the Dead

Barbara Hambly. Del Rey Books, $22 (343pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38102-6

The vampire subculture of 19th-century Europe serves as a vehicle for ruminations on love and honor in Hambly's follow-up to Those Who Hunt the Night. The time is 1908, and biologist Lydia Asher is hot on the trail of her husband, James, a former spy and Oxford don who in turn is shadowing Charles Farren, the vampire Earl of Ernchester, and Farren's mortal traveling companion, the nefarious mercenary Ignace Karolyi. Lydia's pursuit of James parallels a similar trek made by Farren's wife, Anthea, who travels in James's company and is as passionately concerned about Farren's welfare as Lydia is about James's. International adventures take these characters from London to Vienna and ultimately to Constantinople, where they become enmeshed in the byzantine political power struggle that has lured Farren there against his will. Although Hambly invests these vampire and mortal personages with the traditional values being threatened by an evolving modern Europe, her vivid portraits allow them to emerge as memorable personalities distinct from the viewpoints they represent. Believable and sympathetic, pursuer and pursued carry the story over its occasional plot muddles and gothic contrivances to a spectacular finale. Hambly covers no ground that hasn't been explored in the historical vampire sagas of Anne Rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, but once again she uses familiar elements skillfully to tell an engrossing tale. 50,000 first printing; author tour. (Oct.)