Holland, Tom, Deliver Us From Evil (London: Warner Books, 1998), 579 pages, 501-9003000011
England 1659, and young Robert Foxe’s family is slaughtered by plague-bearing satanists intent on raising their dark lord in a ceremony at Stonehenge. Foxe barely escapes with his life, being rescued by Milady and Lightborn, vampires who have been drawn to the area. They raise Robert, curious at his difference from other mortals. Across the next twenty years and in London, Prague, Amsterdam and the New World, Robert, now renamed Lovelace, seeks to understand the magic secrets which will unlock his difference and bring peace to the restless undead who surround him.
The novel’s a lot better than the precis suggests; an exuberant fantasy mixing Wicker Man-ish folk horror, the dissolute romanticism of someone like Anne Rice, aspects of native American and European mythologies, and a sense of doomed fun to the proceedings. It’s also surprisingly bleak, with some nasty go-ings on and a real feeling of despair at the range of curses on offer here (immortality, accidie, disease, unconsummated love, infernal pregnancy). Some of it’s a bit repetitive (you’ll never use the word “frozen” to describe stillness again after noting how often Holland employs the term), and there’s a feeling of some good material being squandered rather (some set-pieces and revelations are rather thrown away), though there are some fine ideas throughout and a visceral sensibility that’s well-deployed.