I’ve always heard amazing things about Tim Powers’ work, but I’ve tried The Stress of Her Regard before, and didn’t really get on with it. I didn’t do much better this time, although I persisted and read the whole thing. I feel like if I knew the life stories of Byron, Shelley, Polidori and Keats, I’d understand exactly what was going on better. It spends so much time on those characters, who from my point of view act erratically and often unpleasantly. (Dead child marionette. I won’t say more, just. Yeah.)
For the most part, it feels more horror than fantasy, albeit a very literary sort; that creeping disquiet, at times replaced by utter grotesqueness, and yet sometimes also laced with pity. It’s essentially about addiction, in a way, which makes it frustrating — the characters are always backsliding, always feeling that once more won’t hurt. Of course, it does.
Most of the characters are pretty unpleasant, too. There’s not much to just like about them — and the female characters are mostly hysterical, ineffectual, or killed.
I’d chalk it up to just not “getting it”, but actually, I don’t see what people like about it at all. I’m glad I’ve read it; now it’s out of the way!