Writ in Blood

Rating: 
3
Writ in Blood
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 15-May-1998

A version of this review appears in The Vampire's Crypt 17 (Spring 1998). The Vampire's Crypt web site is: http://members.aol.com/MLCVamp/vampcrpt.htm

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. WRIT IN BLOOD. Tor, 1997. ISBN 0-312-86318-7; $26.95/$38.95

Set chiefly in 1910-11 Russia, England, and Germany, Yarbro's latest Saint-Germain novel follows the count through adventures both political and romantic. Nikolai Alexandreivich Romanov, Czar of Russia, has an unusual assignment for the wealthy, worldly foreigner known as Franchot Ragoczy, Count Saint-Germain. European politics often means family politics: to the Czar, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Prince Albert of England are "Cousin Wilhelm" and "Uncle Bertie." Political ramifications, however, make it impossible for the three to literally put their heads together in a quiet family gathering to agree on how to run the world. So when the Czar, wanting to minimize the chances of war, decides to propose arms limitations to King Edward of England and Kaiser Wilhelm, he can act only through a trustworthy intermediary -- insofar as anyone with a Czar's confidence can be considered trustworthy. Saint-Germain's heart is in this task: in his long, long vampire's existence he has seen too much of the horrors of war.

In both England and Germany, however, obstacles are constantly thrown up before him. King Edward is too ill for much contact with the well-connected foreigner; in Germany, powerful gossip-mongers (many of whom have connections with the arms trade) spread rumors that would make the Kaiser reluctant to admit having heard of Count Saint-Germain -- much less hearing him out. And wherever he goes, he is watched, watched, watched by agents of this or that political entity who would like to know what secret mission the czar has chosen to entrust to this strange man.

No Saint-Germain novel, however, would be complete be without the damsels in distress that the count invariably finds himself entangled with. In Germany it is the aging dancer Nadezna. The count is a patron of her school of dance, but Nadezna's expensive tastes lead her to additional patrons who pay for more than dancing - -- and who, knowing her connection with the Czar's unofficial representative, demand more of her than time in bed. Nadezna soon finds herself entrapped between financial worries (she doubts that the generous count will support a dancer who whores herself) and the unsavory tastes of clientele she cannot refuse without endangering more than her income.

In England, conversely, Saint-Germain encounters a young woman of independent means: Rowena Pierce-Manning, who prefers to be known as Rowena Saxon. An irrevocable trust from her rich American grandfather enables her to live any life she chooses, and she chooses to live as a painter -- and an unmarried painter at that, to the horror of her proper mother and her infatuated male chauvinist suitor Rupert Bowen. Saint-Germain, however, is sympathetic to both her artistic and a womanly goals. Unfortunately, his attentions do not go unnoticed, either by Bowen or by the Count's inevitable enemies.

And there are of course the other motifs we have become accustomed To: the gallant Saint-Germain scraping by, surviving on dreams when he cannot obtain blood on the consensual terms he treasures; consequently, his manservant Roger's tactful variations on "You never eat right!"; and of course Saint-Germain's determination to give women sexual pleasure, for his sustenance as well as from his gentleness. There are also the usual depraved, degenerate men seeking to discredit and/or kill the count. A particularly tasty touch here is the large and artful helping of spy-counterspy correspondence, with Sidney Reilly himself among the writers.

WRIT IN BLOOD shows Yarbro's usual masterful touch in presenting historical settings, the usual adequate suspense, and, alas, the usual tiredness: we've been here with Saint-Germain many times before, whatever the time and place, whatever the names of the women and men playing usual parts this time around. Some moments are genuinely suspenseful and others genuinely sweet; a few are horrific. All of them, however, are set in a story that, despite its epic sweep, never really transcends the formulaic.

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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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