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Darkness on His Bones: A James Asher vampire…

Darkness on His Bones: A James Asher vampire mystery (A James Asher…

by Barbara Hambly

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342329,500 (4.21)3
  1. 00
    Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly (Guanhumara)
    Guanhumara: Oriental demons and ancient curses - in 1920s Hollywood.
  2. 00
    Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly (Guanhumara)
    Guanhumara: The first James Asher novel

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This is the sixth of the James Asher vampire series. It's one of my favourite vampire series, because Hambly does not duck the fact that vampires kill people. A continuing theme through the series is the morality of working with the vampire Don Simon Ysidro - or helping him, in previous books - when he, too, is the killer of thousands of people. Is it possible to consider such a person a friend? Is it possible for such a person to be worthy of friendship?

This is, I think, all the more relevant nowadays, with the modern tendency to respond to the revelation of someone's crimes by attempting to erase them from society - to the extent of pulling down the house they lived in and refusing to sing the songs they wrote, negating anything they did that was good.

This book requires the reader to ask whether a person's crimes should require one to ignore the value of anything good that they contribute. Also, does the end ever justify the means - and if it does, when?

The story itself takes place partly in Paris, August 1914, around the outbreak of World War I - with the (in retrospect) insane optimism of the time, which quickly chilled to the realisation that it wasn't going to be all over by Christmas - and partly in James' dreams, which are also Don Simon's memories. We therefore get to learn more about Don Simon, and his experiences in Paris in the eighteenth century. There's need, faith, trust, betrayal, and lies - and Hambly makes the point that there are different kinds of power, and if other people have what you need, it doesn't matter how much power you have in other ways.

One of the things I love about this series is that there are no easy answers: all the characters have to make difficult choices, in the knowledge that there is no obvious "right thing". All choices have their price, and the real question is, what are you willing to pay? ( )
1 vote T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
I've been a tremendous fan of Barbara Hambly since her Star Trek novels in the 80's. Her characters, whether they're someone else's creations like Spock or Catherine Chandler, or her people who appear in only one novel like Marcus or Norah, are valued friends. When they're characters who have been appearing in her novels since 1988, like the Ashers and Don Simon, they're practically family.

Darkness on His Bones starts off with one of the family, James Asher, critically wounded, and let me tell you: if as an author you want to create suspense, that's how to do it. I was tearing through the pages to find out if he was all right – because even knowing that Jamie is one of the primary characters the series centers around, still, it felt like his life was not safe. Realistically I doubt Ms. Hambly would ever kill Jamie off. In the context of the book, he might well have been dying. She sold it; I bought it. She's a marvelous writer.

In the commentaries for the late lamented Firefly, Joss Whedon talked about how everyone is the hero of his own story. At risk of being the boring repetitive fangurl, one thing I always say about her is held up in this book: every single character – whether it's one of the Ashers or one of the vampires who looms threateningly to one side but hardly says a word, or Ellen, or the woman mopping the floor, or the magnificent taximan Greuze, or Simon Xavier Christian Morado de la Cadeña-Ysidro – each and every one of them could carry a book on his own, if Ms. Hambly ever got bored and needed a different direction. (I'd love to see a Greuze spin-off.) It is so easy to see each character, named and unnamed, briefly seen or often, as the hero of his own tale, with a life of his own offscreen. I don't want to make it sound like a cluttered landscape, filled with all these heroes fighting for attention. It isn't, any more than your last trip to the grocery store was. All those other people in the aisles, the non-speaking role of the person who stole your parking space or cut in line just ahead of you, the teenager who rang up your order and the senior citizen who bagged it – they're all the heroes of their own story, and however brief their appearance in your story they're real and vivid. That's what Ms. Hambly manages to do in her worlds.

Oh, and the writing. "Dr Théodule, stooped, white-haired, and resembling nothing so much as a wizard who has attempted to transform himself into a goat and had the spell fail halfway." It's funny, and unusual, and – well, I can certainly see him. "‘If you faint from inanition I shall carry you to the curb and leave you there,’ Ysidro had told her last night". How very Ysidro. "Morning sunlight buttered the Avenue du Maine". So beautiful.

Every word pulls its weight, fits into its place as if that place had been built for it when the universe formed. The saying I usually use as a rod to beat poor writers with is, here, a paean: “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.” Zeus's got nothing on Barbara Hambly for lightning.

All right, I'm getting a little worshipful here. I can't help it. Put it this way: given a choice between reading 99% of anything else out there and Barbara Hambly, I will, given free will, always opt for Ms. Hambly. Always. ( )
2 vote Stewartry | Oct 4, 2015 |
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To Ravenna and Jaden
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From: W.W. Streatham, Secretary for Information, British Embassy, 39 Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris
To: Mrs James Asher, 16 Holywell Street, Oxford, England
28 July, 1914

James Asher met with accident last night critical condition Hôpital Saint-Antoine stop come immediately stop contact me on arrival stop yours etc
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0727885235, Hardcover)

Simon. Something frightful has happened to Jamie. Please come . . .

When James Asher is found unconscious in the cemetery of the Church of St. Clare Pieds-Nus with multiple puncture-wounds in his throat and arms, his wife, Lydia, knows of only one person to call: the vampire Don Simon Ysidro. Old friend and old adversary, he is the only one who can help Lydia protect her unconscious, fevered husband from the vampires of Paris.

Why James has been attacked – and why he was called to Paris in the first place – Lydia has no idea. But she knows that she must find out, and quickly. For with James wavering between life and death, and war descending on the world, their slim chance of saving themselves from the vampires grows slimmer with each passing day . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 12 Jul 2015 15:19:30 -0400)

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