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Literature / Those Who Hunt the Night

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"My name is Don Simon Xavier Christian Morado de la Cadena-Ysidro, and I am what you call a vampire."

Those Who Hunt the Night (1988, also published as Immortal Blood) is a Historical Fantasy novel by Barbara Hambly. Professor James Asher, Oxford linguist and retired spy, is unwillingly recruited by the vampires of London to track down a hunter who is killing them one by one. He sets to work, with the assistance of his wife Lydia, a physician, and Don Simon Ysidro, a former Spanish nobleman who has been unliving in London since the days of Elizabeth I.

Has several sequels: Traveling with the Dead (1995), Blood Maidens (2011), Magistrates of Hell (2013), Kindred of the Dead (2014),Darkness on His Bones (2015), Pale Guardian (2016), and Prisoner of Midnight (2019).

This series provides examples of:

  • Bloody Murder: In Those Who Hunt the Night, a character kills a vampire by injecting himself with a lethal dose of silver nitrate (silver being fatal to vampires in this setting) and allowing the vampire to drain him before he succumbed to the toxic effects of the silver nitrate.
  • Deconstruction: Lydia's plot strand in Traveling with the Dead is a merciless deconstruction of Vampire Romance.
  • Dirty Business: James Asher's experiences working for the English secret service.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Partially justified, partially subverted. Vampirism is discovered to have at least a partial biological basis (the vampire hunter in the first book is a scientist attempting to endow humans with vampiric powers, based on isolating the key viral agent of vampirism from their blood), but the more explicitly supernatural elements of vampirism, like the psychic dependence on human death, remain stubbornly intractable.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Definitely subverted. Vampires can feed without killing, but this only sustains them physically; to maintain the psychic abilities they need to survive, including the glamour that conceals their true nature, they must consume the psychic energy of a victim by draining him to death, and most vampires will kill once every four or five nights. This inevitably makes even the most amicable vampires functional sociopaths, at least when it comes to caring about human lives. Don Simon's promise to Lydia not to kill while helping her rescue James, in Traveling with the Dead, causes a serious degradation in his powers and appearance over the course of the story.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The tragic result of an attempt to retro-engineer vampiric powers into humans artificially, which creates an insanely powerful Nosferatu-like monster capable of easily overcoming elder vampires, but who is rapidly decaying and needs to feed on vampire blood rather than human blood.
  • I Gave My Word: In Blood Maidens, a vampire master informs fledglings that he has promised Asher his protection, and dreadful things will happen if anyone hurts him.
  • Market-Based Title: Immortal Blood (Those Who Hunt The Night)
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Hambly's vampires avoid mirrors not because they lack reflections, but because their reflections show what they are instead of what their glamours make them appear (even to themselves) to be.
  • Noble Demon: Don Simon Ysidro, despite being a vampire, has a distinctive sense of honor due to his nobility (noblesse oblige).
  • The Older Immortal: Brother Anthony the Minorite, over six hundred years old, makes Grippen and Ysidro seem like callow youths.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires grow slowly more resistant to their banes (silver, certain woods, sunlight) as they age past their "death". This comes with occasional side effects: Don Simon Ysidro and his sire Rhys developed a condition called bleaching, where they turned into near-albinos, and the Bey of Constantinople became unable to fully create new vampires — attempts simply produced a functioning mind in a rotting body. They're also psychic, able to affect people's minds — the famed "dissolve into mist" act is just mentally blanking a person's ability to focus on them, and since they feed on the psychic energies of their prey's death-by-bite, they cannot feed without killing. They all cast psychic glamours that improve their appearance — even the ones that aren't vain about their appearance prefer to at least seem alive, which without the glamour it's immediately obvious they're not. They avoid mirrors not because they aren't reflected, but because they are, and the mirror shows their true unglamourous appearance.
  • Perception Filter: When vampires seem to appear or disappear, it's really a psychic perception filter causing the observer to be distracted at the crucial moment.
  • Shout-Out: At one point, the subject of Dracula comes up; Don Simon and his fellow vampires are aware of it, and amused by the way Stoker clearly thinks of England as being vampire-free before Dracula's arrival.
  • Spiked Blood: In Those Who Hunt the Night, a character kills a vampire by injecting himself with a lethal dose of silver nitrate (silver being fatal to vampires in this setting) and allowing the vampire to drain him before he succumbs to the toxic effects of the silver nitrate.
  • Stronger with Age: Vampires grow tougher as they age, eventually becoming resistant to their weaknesses — an ancient vampire can withstand the touch of silver that would burn and sicken a fledgling (newly created vampire) with even the slightest contact and even resist the light of the sun and the irresistible sleep that forces all younger vampires into a coma during the daytime hours. Their psychic powers (and presumably physical strength) also increase with age, although there are also possible, though inconsistent, degradations with age.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Hambly's vampires can communicate with people's dreams.
  • Tears of Remorse: In Blood Maidens, Lydia remembers how a companion died, feels guilt, and tears start to her eyes.
  • Villain Has a Point: In Pale Guardians, the Master Vampire of London, talking to a human, sneers contemptuously at the human's distaste for his centuries of kills, pointing out that in the war that is raging in Europe, human governments are slaughtering far more than all the vampires of Europe ever could have.