Silicon-based life-forms, called Lamiae, have formed a “family” through their symbiotic relationships with particular humans. The supernatural beings need to be invited by their victims.
The story begins when English physician Michael Crawford stops at an inn on his way to his wedding. He is lured into placing the wedding ring on the finger of a stone statue. In a scene that re-enacts the animation of Pygmalion, the statue comes alive. From that point, she regards Crawford as her husband. The Lamia kills Crawford’s bride, Julia, on the night of their marriage, and Crawford, accused of the murder, is forced to flee the country. He is followed by Julia’s psychotic sister, Josephine, who is intent on revenge.
Crawford is helped by John Keats, a medical student in a London hospital. Keats, a victim of the Lamia since birth, recognizes Crawford as a new member of the family and urges him to travel to Switzerland, where he becomes involved with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, also victims. Crawford is involved in a complicated series of adventures designed to free the poets from the emotional vampirism of the Lamiae. The result is a series of fictional explanations for the historical deaths experienced by these poets: Keats dies of tuberculosis in Rome, Shelley drowns, and Byron leaves to fight with the Greeks against the Turks.
The plot also operates at a political level, with the revelation that a power broker of the Middle Ages, Werner Von Aargau, had a stone statue inserted into his abdomen, thus linking humankind with the stone Lamiae. The result of this unnatural liaison was to awaken the previously dormant Lamiae to power, enabling them, through Werner, to control the Austrian Empire. The Italian Carbonari help all those who oppose such unnatural relationships and lead Crawford to Werner. The story climaxes with Crawford’s forceful delivery of the statue from the host body of the now-ancient Werner by cesarean section, thus killing the stone fetus, breaking the link between Lamiae and humankind, causing the collapse of the Basilica in which Werner was sheltered, and setting the scene for revolution.