Amber Benson & Christopher Golden,
Ghosts of Albion #1: Accursed
(Del Rey, 2005)

With an equal number of raves and warnings from a variety of respected sources, I stepped into the Ghosts of Albion world with some trepidation. It's not an easy first step; although the novel by writers Christopher Golden and Amber Benson (the latter best known for her endearing turn as Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is the first of a series, it assumes readers are familiar with the backstory spelled out in a pair of web-animation adventures. I'd never seen them, so I had some catching up to do.

Fortunately, the framework of the Albion world is quickly spelled out, and it's not long before readers are comfortable with the premise: William and Tamara Swift, a brother and sister in Victorian England, have inherited the powers of the Protector of Albion from their grandfather. (Albion is the spirit of England.) Their father is alive but inhabited by a demon, so they keep him chained up in the nursery. Oh, and the Swifts are aided in their efforts by a trio of famous British ghosts: Queen Bodicea, Lord Admiral Nelson and Lord Byron.

The story in Accursed revolves around a curse that seems to originate in the subjugated nation of India. Men trapped by the curse devolve into lizard-like demons, while cursed women give violent birth to grotesque toad-like creatures. It's all a bit icky, to be honest.

William and Tamara are convinced there's more to it than a simple curse, but the ultimate target of its evil magic is bigger than even they imagined.

Accursed is creepy and mysterious, at times bawdy and a little unsettling. The characters and their world are an appealing addition to the realms of modern fantasy, and Benson and Golden seem well suited to developing them further. Certainly their descriptions of Victorian London, from polite society to the seedy and impoverished underbelly, are evocative of the age.

I'll be diving right into the second book in the series ... and I may have to see if I can scout out those web animations after all.

review by
Tom Knapp

18 July 2009

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