Book name: Personal Darkness
Author: Tanith Lee
Publisher: Little, Brown
Format: ebook, print
Publication Date: 1993
Star Rating: 4/5
Tanith Lee was a well-established horror writer from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. She was particularly known for writing in the vampire subgenre of horror and in fantasy.
She was widely honoured for the excellence of her writing, including winning the British Fantasy award, multiple World Fantasy Society awards and the Bram Stoker award.
Personal Darkness is the middle book in the ‘Blood Opera’ sequence. The prequel is Dark Dance and the final book in the sequence is Darkness, I.
The sequence features incest between father and daughter, and later father and granddaughter, so I am placing a trigger warning at the beginning of this review.
The Scarabae are rich, powerful vampires living in London and southern England.
Rachaela has been raised outside the Scarabae family. She befriended them in the first book and met her father. He’s the father of her own daughter, Ruth.
As Personal Darkness opens, Ruth has run away having burnt down the house where the Scarabae lived. She has killed Adamus, her father/grandfather.
Rachaela and the others flee to regroup, something that takes time even with the resources available to the Scarabae.
Ruth, who is twelve but appears as a grown woman, goes on a killing spree to feed her vampiric need for blood.
She has developed a taste for arson and burns down the houses after she has killed, in order to cover her tracks.
Ruth is eventually identified by police and a photograph circulated nationally seeking her in connection with the string of murders and arson attacks.
Meanwhile, the Scarabae including Rachaela are regaining their strength and planning how to capture Ruth themselves.
Personal Darkness absolutely rocked the ‘vampires are glamorous immortals’ vibe. The group have access to so much money and influence that nothing can touch them.
They wile away the years as only immortals can, achieving nothing of note and waiting for Ruth to slip up so that they can recapture her.
There was so much bloodthirstiness about Personal Darkness. I loved that aspect. Ruth was careful not to murder anyone who was likeable or decent, so the reader’s sympathy remains with her throughout.
The dark side to Ruth’s nature burned too brightly for her to enjoy the same immortality the rest of the group have welcomed. There was a sadness to Personal Darkness throughout as a result of the recognition that a long life is not for her.
Personal Darkness is a superb example of vampire fiction that pulls no punches. It was bloodthirsty and often distasteful. I enjoyed every element except the incest. I always feel that could have been left out of any novel I read that features it.
Subject to this trigger warning, I can’t recommend Personal Darkness enough.
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