LORD OF THE DEAD by Tom Holland


The Secret History of Byron
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 Gothic Sturm and Drang by British scholar Holland, whose first novel tells how a 19-year-old Lord Byron becomes emperor of the planet's vampires. In today's London, Rebecca Carville, her auburn hair spilling and aglow, searches for Byron's lost papers: and, entering the tomb of her relative Lord Ruthven, is gripped by weird forces that lead her to Byron himself, still alive. Byron tells her the story of his induction as Lord of the Dead in Albania, where he slew the previous Lord, Vakehl Pasha, and unwittingly took on the mantle of top bloodsucker. Byron, in the tale he tells, falls for Vakehl's slave HaidÇe, who dies, or so Byron thinks as he mourns her throughout his return to England. As his own physical beauty coarsens amid riotous bloodlettings, Byron finds that the only way to get on the wagon again is to drink the ``golden'' blood of his own child or of a family member such as his half-sister Augusta, a horror he resists despite his incest with her and his convulsive appetite. Back on the Continent, he tries to draw Shelley into his empire, but Shelley would rather drown . . . . As a genre work, this is better than many. Holland's Byron is a manic-depressive whose bouts of despair--often on horseback and draped with rain and storm--are indistinguishable from the mercurial moods of the usual 19th-century Romantic hero. Style and storytelling both hit their stride as Byron sinks more deeply into his vampirism and as happy inventions arise from his subconscious: When visiting the fields of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, the poet finds himself viewing ragged ghost battalions at war as he walks through soggy earth still pumping with blood. Attractive figures in living pasteboard, yes, but a sequel seems likely, as long as Byron still lives and longs to escape eternity. (First printing of 75,000; Book-of-the-Month Club alternate; Quality Paperback Book Club featured alternate; $100,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-671-53425-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995


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