In this, the second book of the epic trilogy begun in The Forging of the Shadows, the once-glorious city of Thrull has become a place of death and despair. Seven years before, Lord Faran Groton, High Priest of the God of Darkness, overthrew Thrull and set loose his army of vampires to plague the city, waiting for the day the sun would rise no more…But the God of Light has his champions as well. A motley trio of survivors searches for the three ancient artifacts which can defeat the darkness. Traveling far beyond their own lands, they will encounter nightmares and disasters before facing their most dangerous enemies — the Dark-born Nations of the Night!
Blood was what they called that mountain town and the forbidding land around it – and the name was significant. Folks there knew a secret that would have shocked the world…but nobody was ever going to get out of Blood to tell. Not even when Portia Clark arrived, hot on a news story for a national magazine. Especially not her… Clint Breen, who had been in the outside world, tried to save her. But he had to fight a tradition that drove men and women to unspeakable lusts and that ruled secretly the lives and afterlives of everything being in the county. Blood was the place where more men and women walked the night than were ever seen by day. Horror was their heritage, for they were the people that the census dared not count!
Henderson was a brilliant nuclear physicist until the night he staggered home a pathetic wreck of his former self, raving wildly about flying saucers and a strange being named Ravan. No scientific nation could afford to lose a genius of Henderson’s capacity and Parnell Scott, an experimental psychiatrist, was given the job of restoring Henderson’s sanity. Scott gradually infiltrated Henderson’s apparent fantasy and found himself involved in research that produced frightening results. According to ancient legends there had once lived a strange, tyrannical ruler named Ravan, who had possessed a vimana or ‘flying car’. Bur Henderson knew nothing of the legends! Parnell Scott worked desperately against time, sinister foreign agents intent on keeping Henderson insane, and something as old as human history yet as new as tomorrow and more dangerous than nuclear energy.
When Tom Ryan stops his car late at night on a dark road for a man dressed as a Roman centurion, his first thought is that he’s picked up one of those amateur re-enactors but the man, Marcus Appius Silvanus appears to speak only Latin. He insists the year is AD60 and that the British Queen is Boudicca – and that he and his men of the Fourteenth Gemina are in hot pursuit of her. Tom and his sister Mary shelter the Roman, but inadvertently attract the attention of an unscrupulous journalist. He’s not the only one interested in the Ryans: an IRA terrorist who was once Mary’s lover in Northern Ireland tracks her down to tell her the plane crash which killed her parents twenty years ago was caused by the British security services. Deep in the English countryside, those same servants of the state are busy exploiting the theories of a young prodigy to build ‘Oracle’, a probe that can view the past – and, they hope, the future, so that threats to national security can be stifled before they occur.
Gifted novelist Fowler (Sarah Canary and The Sweetheart Season) delights in the arcane, and, as a result, these 15 clever tales are occasionally puzzling but never dull. In the long title story, temperance activist Carry Nation is resurrected in the 1990s (“We’re talking about a very troubled, very big woman,” says one shaken barman to reporters) and becomes such a nuisance that the DEA is forced to dispatch her with voodoo. Other plots are only slightly less outrageous in conceit. In “Lieserl,” a lovesick madwoman dupes Albert Einstein into believing he has a daughter; in “The Faithful Companion at Forty,” Tonto admits to second thoughts about his biggest life choice (“But for every day, for your ordinary life, a mask is only going to make you more obvious. There’s an element of exhibitionism in it”). “The Travails” offers a peek at the one-sided correspondence of Mary Gulliver, who wants Lemuel to come home already and help out around the house. The homage to Swift makes sense, for, when Fowler doesn’t settle for amusing her readers, she makes a lively satirist. The extraterrestrials who appear in her stories (whether the inscrutably sadistic monsters in “Duplicity” or the members of a seminar studying late-1960s college behavior in “The View from Venus: A Case Study”) seem stand-ins for the author herself, who, in elegant and witty prose, cultivates the eye of a curious alien and, along the way, unfolds eccentric plots that keep the pages turning. Contents: Black Glass (1991), Contention (1986), Shimabara (1995), The Elizabeth Complex (1996), Go Back (1998), The Travails (1998), Lieserl (1990), Letters from Home (1987), Duplicity (1989), The Faithful Companion at Forty (1987), The Brew (1995), Lily Red (1988), The Black Fairy’s Curse (1997), The View from Venus (1986), Game Night at the Fox and Goose (1989)