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States of Grace
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor, 332 pages

States of Grace
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: Midnight Harvest
SF Site Review: The Palace
SF Site Review: Blood Roses
SF Site Review: Writ in Blood

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

About half way through States of Grace, the latest installment in the immortal exploits of the vampire St. Germain, I had to ask myself: what on Earth is it that makes me keep coming back to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's novels?

The probable answer is nostalgia. When Hotel Transylvania came out in 1978, featuring St. Germain as a courtly and enlightened vampire in Louis XV's Paris, it was a fresh and welcome addition to the vampire subgenre. And Blood Games (1980), in which St. Germain meets the noblewoman Olivia Clemens in Nero's Rome, is an outstanding historical novel set against a vivid and thoroughly researched background.

But St. Germain has become a formula. After close to two dozen outings ranging from ancient Rome to the 20th century, and from China and India to Europe and America, his adventures are wearily predictable. He moves to new city/country/century. He meets and woos a damsel even though locals are suspicious of his foreign ways and jealous of his wealth, and war/persecution looms on the horizon.

And why, oh why, is his manservant Roger still following him around and cleaning his boots after two millennia? Roger, get a new job!

Ah well, here we go again. During the tumult of the Reformation, St. Germain is living in Venice, and trying to keep his European publishing businesses from being closed down by the Inquisition. In these inflammatory times, anyone who writes and publishes intellectual works outside a narrowly prescribed range of religious subjects is open to persecution and St. Germain -- impossibly noble and suave as always -- is trying to protect his authors, even though he himself is in great peril if his nocturnal secret is revealed.

And of course there's a woman -- this time a lovely and talented musician who becomes his mistress.

As always, the story is revealed in a combination of narrative and correspondence. And as always, Yarbro's research and period description are as impeccable as St. Germain's wardrobe. States of Grace is considerably shorter than most of Yarbro's previous installments, but her plots have always been ponderous, so only purists and history buffs will miss the extra length.

Personally, I always found the vampire Olivia to be a far more lively and interesting character than eternal stuffed shirt, St. Germain, so I keep hoping for a return to something more like A Flame In Byzantium -- a chilling novel of a lone, independent woman attempting to survive in a bitterly misogynistic city.

Meanwhile, States of Grace, despite a lovely cover, is strictly by the numbers and will only interest die hard Yarbro fans.

Copyright © 2006 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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