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Roman Dusk
      Borne In Blood
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
      Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, 252 pages
      Tor, 367 pages

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Born in 1942 in Berkeley, California, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro attended Berkeley schools through high school then spent three years at San Francisco State College (now University). A professional writer since 1968, she has worked in a wide variety of genres, from science fiction to westerns, from young adult adventure to historical horror. Yarbro has sold over eighty books, more than seventy works of short fiction, and more than two dozen essays and reviews.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Saint-Germain: Memoirs
SF Site Review: States of Grace
SF Site Review: Midnight Harvest
SF Site Review: The Palace
SF Site Review: Blood Roses
SF Site Review: Writ in Blood

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

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Roman Dusk
Borne In Blood
The saga of the vampire Saint-Germain, whose adventures across the centuries (he's supposedly 4,000 year old) started with the publication of the novel Hotel Transylvania in 1978, and has now reached its 19th and 20th installment, much to the delight of legions of faithful readers. The author, the prolific Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, keeps jumping across history without following a definite chronological order, moving her creature back and forth from ancient ages to more modern times, so much so that her books have the dual character of the historical novel and the vampiric tale. The latter, however, is becoming almost a marginal aspect gradually losing importance in favour of the historical setting, reconstructed by the author with a vivid, effective touch.

Sometimes the attention for the historical detail is so obsessive than the story itself suffers and the plot becomes so thin to appear almost a literary pretext to portray the lifestyle and the customs of a certain era. This is the case with Roman Dusk, set in the third century AD, where Saint-Germain is a rich foreigner living in a Rome on its way to the irreversible decadence which will lead to the fall of the Roman Empire. A merchant and a physician, Saint-Germain attracts the attention of a greedy decurion who collects tax money. His relationship with a courtesan and his kind attitude towards the daughter of one of his patients (an ailing lady bound to die soon) together with the animosity of the girl's young brother, a Christian zealot, will be Saint-Germain's downfall, putting him at risk to die "the true death." Actually, very little happens in the novel, by no means one of the best in the series. Interesting as the historical texture may be, action is lacking and boredom is often around the corner.

On the contrary, Borne In Blood, the latest Saint-Germain novel, is a fully enjoyable reading experience. Taking place in Switzerland in 1817,shortly after Napoleon's defeat and a period of unusually icy weather, two events that left Europe hungry and distressed, the book nicely blends Yarbro's knack for depicting the atmosphere of the time in which the story takes place with a skilful description of events and characters. The vampire is living in his Chateau with Hero, a widow whose children are far away under the strict custody of her stern father-in-law. The Comte is in contact with the Graf von Ravensberg, a scientist devoted to study human blood, and who, in his private life, has been abusing his niece Hyacinthe for years. The girl is clearly deranged and her sudden interest for Saint-Germain will lead to a terrible outcome. Entertaining and fascinating, the novel grips the reader's attention from beginning to end.

In both books, Saint-Germain's vampiric nature becomes less and less important. He is a true nobleman and a wealthy businessman, a trade merchant, a healer, a publisher, a solicitous although unconventional lover, a generous employer, a thoughtful friend. A few things remind us that he is undead, not partaking of food and drink with his human friends but taking his nourishment from her lovers' emotional climax rather than from their actual blood. But he's also a lonely and nostalgic man, doomed to see friends and lovers die and disappear forever, while he keeps living century after century. This is possibly the character's most attractive side, making him -- the undead -- very human and granting his adventures a continuous success with the countless fans of his stories.

Copyright © 2008 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.


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