The Magistrates of Hell; Barbara Hambly, 2012; Severn House Publishers LTD; Surrey, England.
I stumbled upon Hambly much the same way I do a lot of my reading material; just plain dumb luck. Seriously! I haunt the library shelves until something catches my eye; if the jacket looks interesting (and everyone has their clothes still intact) I’ll toss the book on a pile of other volumes which have caught my attention, lug them home, read and judge.
Why wait until I’m home before reading and making a decision whether it’s a keeper you might ask? Because reading a book is a lot like trying on clothes: who in their right mind wants to try on clothes in a noisy, poorly lit, poorly concealed, dressing room, where the lighting and ambiance is so bad, no one ever looks good. That’s how I feel about a book (especially by an author I’ve never read): to get the best feel for the authors work, I need to take the thing home, close out the world, and allow the writer and their characters to convince me that what they’ve written is worth investing the next two or three evenings of my life with.
The Magistrates of Hell was well worth the time I gave to it.
This is book number four in the James Asher-Vampire series (again, the predilection towards bad boys….I swear it’s a DNA thing), and since I share the authors fondness for European history, I’m thoroughly enjoying the read.
In this particular novel, Hambly uses the upheaval of early twentieth century China as a vehicle for exploring the notion that ancestral worship may have more serious implications than one might think: go to temple, worship granddad’s statue or shrine…oh yea…his eye teeth tend to elongate after dark…he’s a god and likes his meals @98.6 ̊…fresh off the vein.
And don’t forget the slightly – chilled – 400 – year – old – family – friend – savior; he’s a little long in the tooth as well.
Occasionally Hambly’s writing bogs down as she pauses to fill in Asher’s back story (information she uses to give credence to current situational responses), leaving the reader with a sense that maybe she ought to have begun the series one or two books prior to Those That Hunt the Night (first in the series). But since she doesn’t belabor the point, the pause is brief and easily negotiated.
On the whole, this kind of fiction may not challenge the limbic system but it is well written, well-developed, and helps keep me from wasting forty-two hours a week channel surfing between 65 popular television stations.
Like mixing together a nice batch of cookies, Hambly does a wonderful job of measuring out just the right amount of suspense, vamperic mystery, history, evil, and just a smidgen of romance to make reading her novels a very pleasant way to spend the evening (or if you live in the PNW, rainy day).
On a scale of one to five I’m giving ‘The Magistrates of Hell’ four stars.
From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer