Those Who Hunt the Night

Those_who_hunt_the_nightThose Who Hunt the Night
By Barbara Hambly
1988

This is an excellent vampire book. There are a lot of fun vampire books, but this one is actually good. I love the characters, I love the way they interact, and I especially love the way that the author presents the vampire characters.

The book is set in Edwardian England and our main character is Oxford professor James Asher. He’s living a calm quite life, but has a rather gritty past as a secret agent for the British government. At the start of this book, the vampire Don Simon Ysidro approaches Asher, informs him that (1) vampires exist, (2) someone has been hunting the vampires of London, and (3) Asher is going to be Ysidro’s agent in tracking down the hunter or Ysidro is going to kill Asher’s wife Lydia. The plot progresses from there.

The problem with vampires (as it were) is that they eat people. Humans are their prey. There just can’t be any sort of natural alliances between predator and prey. Most vampire stories hand wave this away: the vampire just feels terrible about it, or refrains from following his natural urges, or some such. This book, though, directly confronts the fact that these vampires kill people; both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ vampires kill people.  The alliance between Asher and Ysidro is necessarily deeply coercive and fraught.

Very much related to the previous point, I like a certain amount of ruthlessness in my characters. I don’t want them to be mean or cruel, but I like characters who are smart and determined and accept personal responsibility for their actions and the repercussions of those actions. Asher, Ysidro, and Lydia are all like this. They have goals and they do what they need to do in order to achieve those goals. They know what risks they take with their actions and they are very careful in how and what they do.

Another wonderful thing about this book and these characters is that Lydia, Asher’s wife, is an excellent character in her own right and the marriage between her and Asher is equitable. They not only love each other but they also respect and support each other. They are honest and forthright with each other. They trust each other, not just to be faithful, but to be capable.

Anyway, the investigation that makes up the actual plot itself was good, but what makes this book shine are the characters and their interactions with each other. I definitely recommend it.