Reviewed: April 2, 2004
By: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Publisher: Warner Aspect Books
434 pages, $36.95
there was Anne Rice there was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, who took the traditional
vampire story and stood the notion on its head by creating le Comte de Saint-Germain.
The Comte, known also as Ferenc Ragoczy, hails from those haunts favoured by
the most famous denizen of the undead, but is cut from entirely different cloth.
Dracula was a predator; Saint-Germain is a benefactor.
Yarbro’s vampirology the condition is a kind of disease, and Saint-Germain
has had it since the days of the Roman Empire. Her vampires are distressed,
but not immobilized, by such things as sunlight and running water, and rest
most comfortably over a layer of their native soil, but are not necessarily
the evil demons that populate most stories.
Her take on the
race is that they are displaced persons who must be constantly re-inventing
themselves through their long lives in order to survive. They’re a bit like
the immortals in the Highlander series.
need blood, which he takes in small quantities only from those who are willing
donors. Since the act of feeding is rather like sex in its intensity, most
of his special friends are women. He also takes sustenance from shared emotion,
and can sustain himself while providing good dreams to sympathetic souls, most
of whom never realize what he is doing.
Yarbro’s novels have
followed the count on his journeys through history, dipping into his life in
18th century France, ancient Rome, China, and more than a dozen other settings
in 16 books that have covered about 3500 years.
In this one,
the villains are all human, and Saint-Germain is merely trying to cope with
the rise of fascism in Spain, where he has become a successful aviation industrialist,
and then in California, where he resettles for a time. In both places he has
willing friends to whom he renders assistance. As he travels we see him establishing
new business interests and making investments of time and money in ways which
only a person with a really long range view of the world could do.
are moments of extreme tension in Midnight Harvest, but much of the book is
like a blend of the romance and the historical novel, with no more actual vampire
trappings than are needed to remind us who our main character is. One of the
interesting devices used in the book is the series of letters from a variety
of individuals which serve to show us how wide the count’s circle of friends
is and how he is valued by them.
This was a leisurely read.
It was broken into three neat sections and I approached it almost as three
stories, setting it down between narratives. I like the character but I hadn’t
run across a new book in the series for awhile. This one was a treat.