Like THE STRESS OF HER REGARD (1989; reviewed here in February 2011), by Tim Powers, another horror novel centered on the Romantic movement, IN SILENCE SEALED (1988), by Kathryn Ptacek, also attributes major events in the lives of Byron, Keats, and Shelley to vampiric influence.Review of THE STRESS OF HER REGARD
Ptacek's protagonist, Winston Early, arrives in Greece in 1824. There he encounters the great Romantic poets. He also meets the Greek sisters Athina and August Kristonosos, who turn out to be lamiae from classical mythology, inhuman creatures who drink the blood of children and imaginative geniuses. They also feed on the creativity of artists and poets along with the blood. These demons are not alien, inconceivably ancient shapeshifters like the entities in Powers's novel; their bodies, apparently, resemble those of human females in many respects. Like their prototypes in Greek myth, Ptacek's lamiae are all female. They can be killed, although not easily. Partly through Winston's viewpoint, we witness their predation on Byron, Keats, and Shelley, with flashback sections to narrate the fateful encounters that take place before Winston meets the poets and their demonic seductresses.
Unlike the radically alien nephelim in THE STRESS OF HER REGARD, the lamiae don't even offer the ecstatic, although ultimately lethal, inspiration so tempting to the poets as portrayed by Powers. Drawn to human artists, Ptacek's lamiae drink their essence without giving anything in return except short-lived sexual pleasure. Instead of functioning as a metaphor for the addictive power of art like the monsters in THE STRESS OF HER REGARD, Ptacek's erotic demons represent a mindless, destructive sensuality that drains away the vital energies of creative genius.
IN SILENCE SEALED forms a prequel to BLOOD AUTUMN (1985), also told in achronic order, featuring August alone as the fatal seductress. BLOOD AUTUMN takes place in the American South and India in the 1880s and the 1850s, respectively. As the horrified protagonist, Daniel, learns, August often kills her husbands—but not always.
Margaret L. Carter
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