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In 1838, William and Tamara Swift inherit a startling legacy from their dying grandfather, transforming them into the Protectors of Albion, mystical defenders of the soul of England. But the shocked, neophyte sorcerers also inherit unique allies in their battle against the dark forces. Fighting alongside them are the famous–even infamous–Ghosts of Albion: Lord Byron, Queen Bodicea, and ...
In 1838, William and Tamara Swift inherit a startling legacy from their dying grandfather, transforming them into the Protectors of Albion, mystical defenders of the soul of England. But the shocked, neophyte sorcerers also inherit unique allies in their battle against the dark forces. Fighting alongside them are the famous–even infamous–Ghosts of Albion: Lord Byron, Queen Bodicea, and Lord Admiral Nelson.
When strange and hideous creatures appear in the slums of London, an unholy plague threatens to launch an epic battle that may rage all the way to Buckingham Palace . . . and beyond. Time is running out as William and Tamara must learn whether their friends will stand beside them, or seduce and betray them.
From Amber Benson, known for her dramatic portrayal of Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Christopher Golden, Bram Stoker Award—winning author of The Shadow Saga and Wildwood Road, comes a vengeful tale of demons, vampires, and ghosts set in nineteenth-century London. Based on the smash BBC Web series that took England by storm, Ghosts of Albion is a horror adventure laced with dark humor and darker lusts.
It was a rare day in Highgate. The sky above was a brilliant blue, and the sun lured from the landscape vivid colors that were seen so infrequently as to achieve near-mythic status.
Ordinarily Ludlow House seemed to loom upon the hill, gazing balefully across the lawns that surrounded it. The gardens were vibrant and beautiful, but the facade of the house was almost monastic in its plainness, a grim visage of window and stone with a thorny crown of gables and chimneys. Yet on this day, the Swift family home managed an elegant nobility. Though the sprawling manse cast long shadows eastward, they did not engender the sense of foreboding that had so often been their companion.
There was a southwesterly view from the rear of Ludlow House. The elevation of the hill was such that High Street was visible in the distance, and on a day as clear as this, those of keen eyesight or imagination might see the spire of the chapel at Highgate Cemetery. Yet it was neither the view nor the rare brilliance of the spring day that had prompted Tamara Swift to host afternoon tea in the observatory, rather than within the house proper.
Inside the house, even in the front parlor, her guests might have heard the mad howling that came from the second floor, the screams of her father. Or, more accurately, of the thing that lived within him.
Much had changed in the months subsequent to the death of her grandfather, Sir Ludlow Swift. Tamara and her brother, William, had inherited a host of responsibilities they could never have imagined, and the loss of her beloved grandfather, combined with her father's affliction, had cast the bleakest of shadows across her heart.
Yet she felt a sense of purpose now that she never had before. No matter how frightful her current circumstances, she knew she would not have willingly erased the events of the past several months. Once her greatest concerns had been the attentions of young men and the scribblings she authored under the pseudonym T. L. Fleet, stories published in pamphlets they called penny dreadfuls on the street. Once upon a time, her taste for the macabre had been mere musing. Now her writings leaned toward those of reporter, rather than tale-weaver.
But the darkness could be suffocating. For too long in recent months, she had chosen to ignore invitations and gentle inquiries from friends. Now she had at last determined that it would be prudent to escape into the trivial from time to time.
This afternoon's tea was attended by four young ladies of North London whom she counted as her friends and, unfortunately, Miss Sophia Winchell, whom William was courting. Absent from the gathering was Marjorie Winterton, who was attending to the needs of an ailing dowager aunt. Marjorie had sent her regrets, and Tamara shared the sentiment. Sophia was a poor substitute.
This tea was meant to signify Tamara's return to society, and the throwing aside of the shroud that had cloaked her spirit so much of late. And she found now that the gathering was indeed fulfilling its purpose. The sunshine and the flowers that were blossoming so fully, ripe with color, out across the grounds, had lifted her spirits. But nothing healed her so much as the company of her friends.
A titter of naughty laughter rippled through the observatory. One of the girls had no doubt said something scandalous--no surprise in this group--but Tamara had been lost in thought, and she had missed it. She feigned amusement politely, but she couldn't entirely escape the weight of the dark truths she had learned in the wake of Sir Ludlow's savage murder.
At times she wondered if she should share her burden with one or more of her closest friends, yet she knew there was no way she would dare to do so. Ignorance of the evil that hid in England's shadows was indeed a gift, and it was one she would give them freely. No, she would keep her own counsel. In those moments when she could not bear the weight of the dreadful truth, she would seek solace in her brother's calming voice. In his reason.
Or she would rely upon the kindness of ghosts.
But she would not place the burden of knowledge upon her friends. That would be too cruel.
And the truth of it was that part of her conviction sprang from selfishness. Simply being in their presence eased her mind, let her become once again, albeit briefly, a part of the mundane world. She hadn't realized it until today, but in their ordinary concerns and their gossip and their laughter she found respite. For the first time in months she wasn't dwelling upon the certainty that night would fall once more; that they would depart and the light of whimsy would be extinguished.
No, while they were here, she would be as she had been. Just another girl--no, just another high-born lady of London town.
She took a sip of lukewarm tea--she didn't dare try to use magic to warm it in the presence of her friends--and turned her gaze toward the windows. Tamara had always found it peaceful here in the observatory, if a trifle chilly. The gardens of Ludlow House were renowned, arranged as they were with an almost architectural precision. Tamara's grandfather had entertained many a guest here, to exploit the glorious view of the prize tea rose garden.
Tamara still missed the grizzled old man terribly, but time had begun to scar over her tender wounds. They would never heal altogether; the thought that they would was a myth. Yet, brushing away the momentary pain, she turned her attention back to the conversation in progress.
"--I truly believe that if I were ever to find myself in the company of our Mr. T. L. Fleet, I would just expire," said Victoria Markham, her face so flushed as to make her cheeks nearly as red as her hair. "I would be just that--for lack of a better word--stimulated."
Tamara almost laughed, but managed to hold herself in check by pretending to cough into her silk handkerchief. She perched on the edge of the soft red velveteen settee, blue eyes wide with curiosity. Somehow, while she was lost in reverie, the topic of conversation had come around to her own writings. How odd it was to be privy to gossip that was, however indirectly, about her.
Victoria dramatically raised a hand to cover her mouth, as though she had been scandalized by her own ribald insinuation, her mischievous, pixielike features doing little to make her pretense convincing.
Tamara so treasured the girl. In the aftermath of Sir Ludlow's death, Victoria had continued to make overtures of friendship, long after everyone else had ceased trying. She had stubbornly refused to let Tamara surrender completely to grief, and had finally called at Ludlow House--uninvited--the week before, hoping to coax Tamara back into society.
It was entirely due to her urging that Tamara had promised to sponsor a tea for their friends this afternoon.
Victoria lowered her hand and continued. "My cousin Roderick swears that T. L. spends his evenings with that bawdy actress Lucille Hammond. Can you believe that an author of his accomplishments would even call on someone so base?"
There was a pause and then Helena Martin looked up from her sketchpad, a dusty piece of charcoal clutched between her thumb and forefinger. "Well, I must confess that Stained Scarlet gave me goose bumps."
Tamara smiled, the compliment giving her goose bumps.
"I couldn't put it down, not until the very last word," Helena continued, a small, self-conscious smile blossoming upon her face. "I was so terrified." At that, she quickly returned to her sketching, a rather faithful rendering of a nearby vase of roses.
Helena wiped a strand of chestnut hair out of her eyes, leaving a dark smudge across her high cheekbone. Tamara had known her since they were toddlers, and didn't think she had ever seen the young woman without her sketchbook in hand.
"It was suspenseful," Victoria agreed. "He raises the penny dreadful to high art. And I'll wager he's even more handsome than his characters."
"Honestly, is there no other more suitable subject for conversation, or are you all so obsessed with this bawdy fantasy?" Suzanne Hastings muttered.
Once she had been Tamara's dearest friend, but they had found little opportunity to enjoy each other's company in recent years. The dark-eyed, Rubenesque girl had married two summers before, and spent much of her time at her husband's estate in Cornwall.
"How absolutely dull of you," Victoria said with a sigh. "Now that you're a married woman, I think you're simply coveting the freedom the rest of us have. You'd be thrusting out your bosom and batting your eyelashes with abandon at our T. L. if you weren't saddled with that old nanny goat of a husband."
Tamara was surprised at the intensity of Victoria's fascination with the mysterious author, though she supposed that if she were unaware of the author's true identity she, too, might find herself enamored of the "adventurous scribe." Then it struck her that the very thought was laden with devastating hubris, and she brushed it away.
The barb hit home, and Suzanne's face flushed scarlet with suppressed rage. But she took a deep breath and shot her friend a sly smile.
"Victoria, my darling, perhaps one day you will learn that simply because a thought pops into your pretty head, that doesn't mean you ought to put voice to it. For example, just because we all know that you couldn't snare a husband even with that embarrassingly large Markham fortune of yours, that doesn't mean we need to comment on the fact."
Victoria stiffened, and Tamara thought for a moment that she might throw her tea in Suzanne's face. But instead she began to laugh.
"Touche, Suzanne. You always did have a way with words. I cannot even begin to compete."
Suzanne took her win graciously. "My dear Vic, were I this gruesome scribbler you so fancy, I have no doubt I would find you irresistible."
The irony of it all was as frustrating as it was delicious. It was all Tamara could do not to reveal herself. And I don't spend my time loitering outside music halls, lusting after round-heeled actresses! she would have declared.
As much as she wanted to tell her friends the truth, her brother, William, had made her swear upon pain of death never to reveal her literary identity. He was worried that public knowledge of her career might do irreparable harm to their good name, which she found amusing in light of what outcry might arise were the public to become aware of the other avocation that was increasingly drawing their attention and time.
Once again she glanced around at the friends she had gathered in the observatory and felt perfectly at ease, allowing a smile to play at the corners of her mouth.
Her pleasant musing was shattered by a tight, supercilious voice that came from outside their circle. "I cannot believe that any young lady from a proper family would dare read such trash."
Sophia Winchell stood by the windows, mouth twisted up in disapproval that tainted her otherwise beautiful face. She was one of the most stunning women Tamara had ever known. Suzanne and Victoria looked like charwomen in comparison. Tamara could see why her brother was taken with Miss Winchell, despite her personality.
Victoria rolled her eyes. She had been upset at first when she had learned that Tamara had invited Sophia to come to tea. It seemed that no one, aside from her brother, was fond of the girl. Tamara had made an earnest effort to like the young lady who was the object of William's fancy, but subsequently she had found that she would rather eat soap than spend an afternoon alone with her.
When Tamara had invited Sophia, she had felt certain the girl would find some excuse to decline, but to her surprise William announced that she was thrilled to be included. Tamara was sure that the word thrilled had been an embellishment on his part, as Sophia had barely spoken since her arrival.
Now she gazed at Tamara, a challenge filling her eyes. If Tamara hadn't known better, she would have thought the girl knew something.
"I'm sure a little harmless amusement won't be the death of anyone," Tamara said, forcing a pleasant smile.
Sophia pursed her lips, but did not reply.
Tamara continued, "Don't you agree, Sophia?"
Sophia shook her head. "I do not, Miss Swift. Nor do I think the author of such drivel should be complimented or admired for such hideous imagery as he foists upon the public. It is the lowest form of entertainment, not art but filth, and a base appeal to the ugliest facets of human nature."
Victoria seemed even more startled and offended than Tamara. "Miss Winchell, one should never condemn what one has not read--"
Sophia raised an eyebrow and interrupted. "Oh, but I have," she began, the sarcasm palpable in her voice. "I have had the pleasure of reading this trash, this Stained Scarlet, and find it not only offensive, but very poorly written, at that."
Tamara stood and crossed the room, striding toward Sophia. "That's enough."
At first, the other girl stood her ground, but as Tamara got closer, she stepped back against the window, placing her hand on the warm dark wood of the sill. She may have been intimidated, but she never took her eyes away from Tamara's.
Keeping her voice even, Tamara said, "Miss Winchell, if you must disdain our amusements, and our company, you might at least have the good taste not to do so when you are in our company. Your rudeness knows no bounds."
Sophia met her gaze evenly. "You don't frighten me, Tamara Swift. I know exactly what you are."
Tamara nodded. "And what is that, may I ask?"
Sophia bit the inside of her lip, her hazel eyes slitted as she glared at the woman who stood before her. She put a small, pale hand to her hair, unconsciously smoothing it.
"I shall tell William how wicked all of you are," Sophia said shrilly. She glanced quickly at the other girls, as if memorizing their faces for some subsequent vengeance.
Excerpted from Ghosts of Albion: Accursed by Amber Benson and Christopher Golden Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted October 26, 2005
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. 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 mu
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Posted December 9, 2008
In Victorian London, siblings William and Tamara Swift are magicians protecting England from evil from their home Ludlow House. Other residents include the spirits of overly sexed charged Lord Byron, naked warrior queen Bodicea, and their father with the latter apparently possessed by an evil demon. Prim and proper William courts independent feisty Sophia Winchell while his sister yearns to make life with rake John Haversham........... As the Swift siblings work on their personal lives, women of Indian descent are being raped near the wharfs and in the East End slums these odious unions have led to the birth of gruesome monsters. At the same time reptilian creatures are killing anything that crosses their paths. Queen Victoria is concerned that her magicians are so young to go up against such formidable opponents. However, youthful as they are, the good guys are assisted by their resident ghosts and a vampire though they remain in deep trouble as the forces of the dark look invincible especially when the sun is down which is for much of a day in smoggy London............ This funny and charming atmospheric Victorian horror tale brings to gloomy life London under siege from the supernatural. Fans will appreciate the historical setting that makes the paranormal seem real although raging hormones sometimes interferes with the magic. GHOSTS OF ALBION: ACCURSED is a fine thriller that readers will enjoy........... Harriet Klausner
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Posted July 28, 2012
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Posted February 28, 2009
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