Ruby Tear, The

Rating: 
4
The Ruby Tear
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 25-Jun-1997

A version of the following review will appear in The Vampire's Crypt 16 (Fall 1997).

Rebecca Brand (Suzy McKee Charnas). The Ruby Tear. Tor, 1997; ISBN 0-312-86165-6; $22.95 (hardcover).

After a hiatus spent recuperating from an automobile accident, Jessamyn Croft is returning to the stage. She is mystified -- and hurt -- when her former fiance, playwright Nic Griffin, does everything in his power to prevent her being cast in his play, The Jewel. Nic knows she would not believe him if he explained that he wants her kept out for her own protection. The Jewel is Nic's response to a family curse attached to the Ruby Tear, a huge ruby associated with the mysterious deaths of generations of Griffins.

Before it was a Griffin family heirloom, however, the Ruby Tear belonged to the von Cragga line. When it was stolen centuries before, Baron Ivo von Cragga made a pact with the forest goddess of his homeland. She gave him power to recover the gem and destroy members of the family that held it, but it was a power he had to pay for in blood, and with a change to an inhuman, undying nature.

As it comes into the possession of each eldest Griffin male, von Cragga still seeks to obtain the Ruby Tear -- and the death of its owner. Now, because of her tie to Nic, Jessamyn is von Cragga's chosen tool for reaching the reclusive Griffin heir. But von Cragga himself falls prey to Jess's charm, and Jess is in turn struck by his magnetism, his Old World manners -- and the sorrow that underlies his ruthlessness.

The narrative balances the excitement and sometimes-paranoia of the theatre backstage against the dark, grim weight of history that trails von Cragga like a stage vampire's cape. But although Ivo von Cragga is yet another single-minded vampire who stumbles over his own humanity because he comes to love a woman, he is no shallow stereotype. His knowledge of the stories behind famous gemstones, his perspectives on human nature -- often cynical, yet not always unkind -- make him as "human" as Jess. Just as she is torn between long-standing love for Nic and attraction to this charismatic stranger, he is divided between interest in her for herself and her usefulness in his centuries-long quest.

Even when The Ruby Tear employs vampire romance conventions, it gives them a twist that never sacrifices plausibility for freshness. Jess, Nic, and von Cragga cross paths in a surprising yet uncontrived resolution that lets von Cragga uphold his honor in a way he never could have foreseen. His choice yields a bittersweet conclusion, satisfying as no fairytale ending ever could be.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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