Barbara Hambly began writing about vampires in the late 1980's before they became sanitised and defanged. The creatures she describes are dark, selfish and deadly. With age, survival becomes their only concern as they gradually lose all characteristics that ever made them human. So don't trust them, don't believe them, avoid them at all costs. As Hambly says even Ysidros "victims amounted to well over thirty thousand men, women and children, one at a time presuming the absentious rate of two per week for three hundred and fifty six years..... How could we empathise with these mass murderers?
Hambly's language is rich and descriptive. One of the joys of owning a Kindle is that you dont even have to move to get a dictionary when you are introduced to such words as mephitic and frowst. How can you not love descriptions such as ".....and his dry, soft whisper was dust falling in a room long closed."
Hambly draws us into her world with a rich knowledge of the time and the people. She gives us a knowledgeable background to the incredible tensions of the time between England, Germany and Russia. Her description of Saint Petersburg slums illustrate how they spawned the Russian Revolution and we meet people from a diverse range of ethnicities and social class. It was a nice touch when Rasputin was introduced at a pivotal point. Hambly's characters are always memorable even to the minor vampire that still had socialistic beliefs. We understand how her characters feel, what they believe in, so that when at the end of the book, James says he couldn't, we breathe a sigh of relief because this is what it is to be human.
Hambly has an incredible range of writing styles from fantasy to historical and all refect her immaculate care to detail. I too would suggest reading the other books in the series first so that the exquisite pleasure of Bloody Maidens is fully realised.