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Book Review

Book Cover

Blood 20
Tales of Vampire Horror


Author: Tanith Lee
Publisher: Telos Publishing
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84583 909 3
Publication Date: 25 March 2015

Tanith Lee has had a successful career as an author penning over ninety novels and enumerable short stories; to her credit she also provided two scripts for Blakes 7. Her writing has ranged across many genres, reflected by her publishing history...

In Blood 20 (2015. 329 pages) Telos have released a collection of her vampire short stories, twenty in all, the clue is in the title, three of which are original to this collection.

The stories, which range from the late nineteen-seventies to the present day, present a good picture of both Lee’s interests and the way that her writing has developed. One of her earliest works Il Bacio (Il Chave) shows Lee at her most baroque, the language is highly detailed with rich poetic prose, displaying a romantic sensibility. Unfortunately it is the detail of her skill which might turn off some readers brought up on more mundane fare. Although the story was first published in nineteen eighty three, it could just as well be a product of the romantic prose period which lasted from eighteen hundred to eighteen forty.

This is in contrast to ‘On Reflection’ a contemporary short story where the prose style looses much of the richness of her earlier work, but gains in clarity. At lot of the earlier stories set you down in some unnamed era, although you would guess that many are set between the medieval period and the renaissance, once again bringing together the two prominent themes of romance and historically based stories. This lack of sense of space can often leave the reader either wanting to know more or with a feeling of dislocation.

Lee, like Anne Rice, obviously loves her vampires and they are, in the main, portrayed as beautiful and alluring, whether they are male or female. This is not to say that the collection has a feeling of repetition. Within the collection vampires are created by many means, and although there is always a supernatural element involved the end result is not always knowable or ethereal. For instance in ‘On Reflection’ a Roman soldier’s soul is stolen by a mirror and whilst he inherits some of the tropes of the genre, longevity, a bit of blood lust, he is in all other ways normal.

Overall the collection is a fair example of Lee’s changing style married with her continued interest in romanticism and history.


Charles Packer

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