Child of an Ancient City by Tad Williams and Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Child of an Ancient City by Tad Williams and Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Child of an Ancient City by Tad Williams. This edition Legend Books, 1992

This is a remarkably good little book. It tells the tale of an ill-fated caravan journey between Baghdad and Armenia, and how the book’s protagonist and narrator, Masrur al-Adan, manages to survive bandit raids and the attentions of the vampyr stalking them.

The structure of the narrative is a tale within a tale, and in the final third goes even further to include several other tales within the tale within the tale. While this might sound complicated, it’s surprisingly well done and obviously owes much of its origin to One Thousand and One Nights. The fact that most of the tale is told in the first person by Masrur gave the narrative a much more intimate feel for me, and gave the story a bite that it might not necessarily have had if told in the third person.

There’s also a sense that Dracula and other similar works have had a small but significant influence on this tale. The growing sense of dread attributed to the characters is in a similar vein to that imparted by Jonathan Harker during his time travelling towards and then staying at Dracula’s castle, though it should be noted that the vampyr in this tale is not at all like the eponymous vampire in Stoker’s work. Indeed, by the end of the narrative the authors managed to provide an almost sympathetic view of the vampyr, something I never got from Stoker.

The seven micro tales told by the surviving characters at the end of the book are fantastic little stories in their own right, and the resolution of the conflict between the vampyr and the protagonists came as a bit of a surprise to me. Taken as a whole, this is definitely a book worth reading, if you can find a copy; as far as I can tell it’s now out of print, which is a bit of a shame to be honest.

A strong four and a half stars.

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