01/10/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
Borne In Blood (a novel of The Count Saint-Germain) by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. pub: TOR/Forge. 367 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.95 (US), $17.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1714-8.
check out websites: www.tor-forge.com and www.chelseaquinnyarbro.com
A question sometimes asked, is what do you want from a book? If it is fiction, usually the answer will be entertainment or pleasure. Many books that provide an enjoyable diversion offer little else. For many of us, there comes a time when we crave the coffee that should lie underneath the froth. Then we want something more from our reading but without necessarily having to resort to factual tomes. Maybe it is the beauty of the language, an elegant construction of plot and setting. Alongside these lies character. Perhaps the book illuminates the way people act or transports us to a place we would or could never visit. A good, well-written book often has something to say. It is up to us to interpret the message. We can always learn something from good fiction.
When Chelsea Quinn Yarbro introduced us to the Comte de Saint-Germain in ‘Hotel Transylvania’, he was already an old vampire, skilled at surviving in a world dominated by humans. The interlude in that novel was set in the Paris of Louis XIV. Other novels have explored other periods of history. ‘Borne In Blood’ is set in post-Napoleonic Europe. In the aftermath of the war, unemployed soldiers do not necessarily have a life to return to. Saint-Germain is a wealthy man having accumulated a fortune over the centuries and a shrewd businessman. He has properties in many places in Europe, a hedge against lands being confiscated in war and a refuge if too many suspicions are aroused by his presence. Despite his fortune and his gentlemanly behaviour he will always he the foreigner, the outsider and therefore the first to be suspected if there is trouble in the area.
There are two principle female characters in this episode of Saint-Germain’s existence, with different problems. Hero Iocasta Ariadne Corvosaggio von Scharffensee is his companion. He has fed from her, giving her intense erotic pleasure in return. He is wary of using her too often for this purpose as after the sixth time she will be infected and become a vampire when she dies. She has not yet consented to this. She is more concerned with a social problem prevalent at the time. As her husband was killed in the war, she has no male relative able to take her into his house (her father is embarking on an archaeological expedition to Egypt, an unsuitable destination for her young children) and has had to forfeit her children’s care to her father-in-law. This man has decided that she should have no contact with them as he considers that her influence would be unsuitable. Saint-Germain is doing his best to reunite the family.
Hyacinth is the ward of the Graf von Ravensberg. Her problems are very different and have echoes in modern society. She is a very confused young lady, having been sexually abused by her guardian for years. Now as she has reached puberty, he no longer favours her with his attentions. She is intensely jealous of the two new wards that von Ravensberg is introducing to his household. Also, her guardian has decided that Hyacinth should be married and has found a husband for her, a man at least twenty years her senior. Hyacinth does not like him. She meets Saint-Germain in Amsterdam where von Ravensberg is discussing the publication of his book on the properties of blood with Saint-Germain’s publishing house. She decides that Saint-Germain will make a much better husband and sets out to seduce him and will not take no for an answer.
‘Borne In Blood’ has a lot to say about the situation of women in the society of early nineteenth century Europe. With the increasing equality of the sexes in the twenty-first century, it is shocking to discover that a woman could be deprived of the care of her children just because her husband had died. At the same time, it was easier, two hundred years ago for the depraved to abuse girls and get away with it. Although both situations now seem outrageous, we have made more progress with the former than the latter.
Yarbro has developed a technique for cutting out the uninteresting passages in her characters lives by only relating the scenes and episodes that push the story along – lesson that needs to be learned by a number of other published authors. She intersperses these passages with letters which encapsulate the missing periods of time. These also enhance the sense of period by detailing the length of time and method of transportation of the letters.
This book clearly demonstrates how a book that entertains and is fascinating to read can also teach. An impeccably researched historical period comes to life with the skill of the writing and the reader absorbs information without really being aware of it. Other authors can also learn much about the art of novel construction by reading a book such as this.
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