Book spotlight – The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

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Tim Powers is famed for his historical fantasy novels, specifically his ability to pick a seldom-explored pocket of time and create a rich narrative within it.

One such book is The Anubis Gates, a fast-paced Victorian adventure following Brendan Doyle, a sharp-witted historian who must rely on more than his knowledge of the future if he’s to escape the past alive.

One thing I love about Tim’s writing is how immersive it is, and how organic the settings feel. He has a rare ability to create a vast swell of characters that are fully realised and beautifully fleshed out.

In The Anubis Gates you’ll find Horrabin, a truly terrifying nightmare-clown of a creature and one of my favourite literary villains. As this book came out in the eighties, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s to blame for many a reader’s clown phobia! I guess ultimately, one of the endearing qualities of The Anubis Gates is how strongly you feel for the characters. You either love them, loathe them, or in Horrabin’s case, a bit of both!

There’s quite a tragic edge to one of the magic systems in The Anubis Gates. Brendan gets caught up with a character called Dog-Face Joe. Without giving too much away, the myth of Dog-Face Joe leaves few survivors in its wake, and you feel a heavy sense of gloom for anyone who falls foul of it. There are real consequences here, a real alchemy of sorts for everyone who gets mixed up in the story’s dark arts.

Some readers are skeptical of books with multiple POVs, but Tim moves nimbly between several characters’ heads in quick succession without making the writing feel choppy or superficial. Indeed, being able to move between completely contrasting characters gave the story more definition, in my opinion.

I see a lot of talk about having a message in your writing. In a world where it seems to be all about some lesson writers want their readers to learn. It’s refreshing to reach back a couple of decades and read a book that focuses solely on entertaining and dazzling you for a few hundred pages. I cried at the end of The Anubis Gates, because it’s beautiful and cathartic and neatly wrapped up, and because I would like to see more books of this breed out there in the world. Luckily, Tim’s furiously working away on more stories as we speak, and has an impressive back catalogue to peruse. Don’t mind if I do! 

Read this book if you:

  • Love classic adventure stories such as Indiana Jones or The Mummy
  • Love historical fiction, specifically the Victoria era or post-Enlightenment
  • Love flawed, multi-dimensional characters
  • Enjoy multiple POVS and no one can tell you different, damnit!

Have you read The Anubis Gates or any other of Tim’s books? Tell me all about it in the comments 🙂

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