cover image The Magistrates of Hell

The Magistrates of Hell

Barbara Hambly. Severn, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8158-8

In Hambly's newest James Asher vampire novel (after Those Who Hunt the Night), the titular British spy; his brilliant wife, Lydia; and Asher's old teacher and vampire hunter, Rebbe Solomon Karlebach, navigate both the complexities of Chinese politics and the practicalities of monster hunting in a darkly exotic version of early 20th-century China. The trio has arrived in the newly-formed republic in order to investigate reports that the yao-kuei demons rumored to be living in the caves of Peking may actually be the hive-minded Undead, and to prevent nefarious parties from using them as weapons in future wars. But the appearance of Asher's vampire friend, Don Simon Ysidro, threatens already tenuous alliances. Hambly's finely wrought China feels alien not just for its vampires and demons, but also for the glaring divide between the insulated diplomats living in the Legation Quarter and the general Chinese populace. Balancing the excitement of dangerous chases through mines full of Undead with the intellectual satisfaction of solving a political mystery, this is a lush and delicious read. (Aug.)