Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Dark Dance

In DARK DANCE (1992), celebrated science fiction and fantasy author Tanith Lee creates a twisted variation on the traditional Gothic love story with its mysterious, charismatic anti-hero, atmospheric, forbidding old house, and naive heroine. While not a conventional romance, DARK DANCE, first book of the Blood Opera trilogy, centering on the not-quite-human Scarabae clan, begins like a formulaic Gothic novel. The orphaned Rachaela is summoned to the isolated mansion of her father's peculiar family. There she meets her long-lost father, Adamus, who looks no more than thirty years old. Repeating the pattern of his single night with Rachaela's mother, Adamus mates with Rachaela only until she becomes pregnant. Their child, Ruth, matures with abnormal speed and grows, of course, into a bloodthirsty creature like her father. DARK DANCE somewhat brings to mind Anne Rice's THE WITCHING HOUR (1990), another horror novel of a woman ensnared by her previously unknown family and forced to conceive an inhuman child.

In the ravishingly attractive, hypersexual Adamus, Lee presents a nightmare parody of the tender, passionate, Byronic vampire lover of conventional dark romance. He cares nothing for Rachaela except in terms of her fitness to bear the "Scarabae seed." He plans to breed with their daughter, Ruth, as soon as she reaches the age of fertility. Rachaela visualizes the Scarabae as animals, "wild things dwelling in a stained-glass forest." They present themselves to her as a persecuted race. But Rachaela feels no attachment to or sympathy for them, nor does she feel anything for Adamus aside from erotic attraction mingled with bitter resentment. Ruth is a "thing" to Rachaela, a parasite that has used her body. She imagines Ruth wearing a sign around her neck: "Conceived from my father while he drank my blood, suspected of being a demon."

The two sequels are PERSONAL DARKNESS (1992), the aftermath of a murderous rampage by Ruth, who has grown up to be, if not outright evil, dangerously unstable, and DARKNESS I (1994), in which Rachaela bears another Scarabae daughter, who also matures at a preternatural rate, while the ancient progenitor of the clan hunts for the girl. A deeply disturbing three-volume work of science-fantasy and horror, highly recommended.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

No comments: