Reviewing The Kindred of Darkness: A Vampire Kidnapping by Barbara Hambly

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The Kindred of DarknessThe Kindred of Darkness: A Vampire Kidnapping, is the fifth book in the James Asher series , also known as the Ysidro series, or the Lydia Asher series. One of the strengths of the books is their ensemble nature, and that remains true in this novel, a tense mystery which begins when Grippen, the master vampire of London, kidnaps the Ashers’ daughter and demands that Lydia help him find a vampire interloper he cannot find himself. He further specifies that she is not to communicate about this with any of the other London vampires about the situation. What follows is an intense, complex mystery as the Ashers try to find the new vampire, locate their daughter, and figure out what this has to do with the newly-engaged American heiress now visiting London.

It is always good to see a new book in this series, and The Kindred of Darkness is highly readable installment that reveals more about the family life of the vampires as well as expanding the Ashers’ circle. It was good to see Lydia get some more time in the spotlight. Lydia has been an important character since the series began with Those Who Hunt the Night, but she ended up somewhat sidelined in Magistrates of Hell, so it seemed she was due for some time in the center. I enjoyed seeing her active in the woman’s portion of London life, arranging for her niece’s coming out, meeting and talking with friends, and juggling the social side of her existence. One of her strengths as a character has always been the way she combines atypical interests for the time (being a medical researcher) without rejecting all of London’s life (Women who are modern feminists despite it being historically unlikely are a pet peeve of mine). If anything, I wish we had seen more of this life; Asher and Ysidro enter the scene a little too early in this case.

The emphasis on family here makes for a more complicated novel: Lydia is more involved with her extended family now that she herself is a mother, forming new friendships and alliances as well as chafing at old troubles and ties, though a couple of these do appear out of nowhere. I don’t mind meeting aunts I can’t remember hearing of before, but surely Lydia’s stepmother should have gotten some attention before this? In any case, the addition of Lydia’s family plus Cece Armistead and her family and hints about Grippen’s past, plus the complicated fledgling-and-master relationships among vampires make this a novel where familial love is added to the questions of romantic love and friendship that continue from previous books.

It’s also good to see that, this time, Lydia acknowledges the attraction of the whole “farrago of nonsense” that the vampires often send to lure their victims in. Where she entirely dismissed Margaret’s dreams in Traveling with the Dead, here she sees their temptation and knows why their recipients are drawn. It’s a welcome increase in empathy, even while Lydia remains an eminently sensible heroine.

Ysidro’s continued involvement in the affairs of the living is somewhat problematic. Despite the frequent disavowing of Byronic heroes throughout the series, the fact remains that Ysidro continues to dramatically come to Lydia’s rescue. The enigmatic Spaniard is always a welcome presence in any book, but his penchant for risking his life for the Ashers, particularly for Lydia, can hardly be described as sensible. I keep waiting, with some dread, for the logical outcome of his attraction to the mortal life. His presence does allow for more insight into vampire culture, a complex and alien construct that Hambly has been building for five books now and which gains new branches as the international angle develops throughout the series.

Fans of the series will enjoy The Kindred of Darkness, particularly as it deepens. Those who haven’t read any of the books yet should start with Those Who Hunt the Night, the first book and work forward. I am rereading the series now myself, simply because The Kindred of Darkness has reminded me how much I enjoy it.

The series so far:
Those Who Hunt the Night
Traveling with the Dead
Blood Maidens
Magistrates of Hell
The Kindred of Darkness

Edit–and Darkness on His Bones Coming in October 2015

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