Tanith Lee’s novel is a sprawling work in five sections. The first deals with Mechail Kohrlen, heir to a rural estate. He is hunchbacked and antisocial. His father dotes on Mechail’s handsome brother. Mechail completes a test of manhood—a human sacrifice to the forest gods—but his brother mocks him, later hiring soldiers from a rival estate to murder Mechail. Mechail rises from the dead, kills his brother, and flees to the forest.
Rumors of vampirism bring Anjelen, a warrior priest, to the area. He finds Mechail comatose and takes him to the Christerium, headquarters of the Knights of God. On the way, Jasha, a strange homeless girl, joins their ret-inue to care for Mechail. She feeds him gruel mixed with blood. At the Christerium, Jasha goes to the wom-en’s quarters and Mechail becomes Anjelen’s protégé. Mechail discovers that Anjelen is truly a vampire who has turned Mechail into a demon like himself. Jasha, meanwhile, is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. She is resurrected, and she and Mechail flee the Christerium and go separate ways.
The second section of the novel deals with Mechail’s mother. Anillia, the child of a city lord, was lost in the woods as a toddler. Anjelen found her and brainwashed her into being his servant. At the age of fifteen, she wed Kolris Kohrlen. She died after giving birth to Mechail. Anjelen steals her bones and resurrects his servant. After she rises, she vows that Anjelen will never...
(The entire section is 518 words.)