Posted on February 23, 2006 by Flames
Ghosts of Albion: Accursed is the first full length novel in the Ghosts of Albion series by Amber Benson and Christopher Golden. Ghosts of Albion had been a wildly successful animation series appearing on the BBC Cult website, with Benson and Golden writing and Benson directing. While the animations set up the story at large, one does not need to be familiar with them to enjoy this story. The authors take great care to make sure that new readers are clued into the backstory. What one might miss out on is the internal voices you give the characters from the tale; it is difficult to imagine anyone else as the voice of Horatio Nelson other than Anthony Daniels (C-3P0 of Star Wars).
Fans of Christopher Golden, and in particular his “Shadow Saga” books are in for a treat. The same deft writing and tight plotting is here. Yes there are twists and turns and they are delightful ones. There is something else as well. Fans of Amber Benson will be pleased to see “author” attached to the numerous titles this multi-talented young woman has (writer, actress, director, producer, dancer and singer), and it is quite obvious that she does her fair share here. Contrasting this work to other Christopher Golden books, one detects an edge to Accursed, something extra that can only come from Ms. Benson herself. There is not the “split voice” phenomena that one sees in other dual authored works. Chris and Amber have a unified vision here and a clear direction of how to get to it.
On to the story itself. Set in 1838, William and Tamara Swift are the newly anointed Protectors of Albion. Protectors are charged with protecting the mystic soul of their lands and people in it from the supernatural forces of darkness. Albion is the mystic soul of England. Set in very early in Victorian age, this is more a dark reflection of the world of Charles Dickens, not that of Alistair Crowley. In addition to life crushing poverty and filth, there is the latest supernatural threat to Albion, and one that England may have wrought on itself. William and Tamara slowly learn of a plague hitting the Indian slums of London; men are being changed into horrific demon-like monsters and the women are birthing their spawn. But this not enough, this is merely the first in a wave of evil to come to Albion’s shore. Add in duplicitous Protectors of other lands, ghosts and humans, the Swifts may have met a challenge that even they will trouble with.
It is difficult not love Tamara Swift. She chafes under the conventions of early 19th Century society and is a very forward thinker, but not anachronistically so; Tamara is very much a creature of her age. William on the other hand is a archetype of his age, and that leads to fantastic dynamics as these two characters, who care about each other so and share the same power and burdens, often disagree on many things. The other characters, the epynonymous Ghosts of Albion, are allowed their full reign in this novel. Admiral Horatio Nelson is the Swift’s constant guardian, as steadfast in death as he was in life. Lord Byron is allowed a range more suited his character than the BBC animations would allow, and Queen Bodicea is, if anything, more daunting and formidable in her afterlife than in her legends. These ghosts, along with Nigel Townsend, are the Swifts companions, aides and allies in the war against the supernatural. If Golden and Benson know anything it is vampires. Nigel Townsend is then their child of this shared knowledge. Nigel is everything you expect a 19th century vampire to be; suave, sophisticated and dangerously sexual. He is also a beast wrapped in the flesh of a man and Benson and Golden not only remember this, they embrace it.
For Gamers: There is a treasure trove of ideas for any gamer. Whether you play Cthulhu by Gaslight, Victorian Vampire, Castle Falkenstien or the upcoming Ghosts of Albion RPG from Eden studios, you should be able to find something here to use.
I am quite impressed with the level of research the authors have done for this tale. This is a time the general is familiar with, but almost no one knows any details about. Benson and Golden share their knowledge of both the big issues of the time and such mundane trivial items that the mood is perfect. One can actually smell that Thames, hear the dock workers and feel the oppressive fog. The mythology, both of that of the Protectors and that of the lands they live in and protect, are exquisitely detailed.
Reviewer: Timothy S. Brannan