Tempting Fate, Darker Jewels, Writ in Blood. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Book Review :

I enjoy fantasy and scifi, and one series I have always liked is the St. Germain series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.  I have the entire collection, but it has been several years since I last read the earlier novels.  Since the world fell into such a mess, I have found that rereading old favorites is easier than reading new books.  My TBR pile is huge…..

The three novels here have in common that all are set either partly or entirely in Russia.  Tempting Fate and Writ in Blood start out in Russia just prior to the Revolution while Darker Jewels is set in Moscovy during the reign of Ivan Grozny, aka Ivan the Terrible, during the regency of Boris Godunov.  Reading the opening of Tempting Fate, in particular, brought vividly to my mind the devastation of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.  

However, let’s start at the beginning….  These are vampire novels and Yarbro’s vampire is based on a historical figure of the 18th century, the Comte de Saint-Germain.  He is 4,000 years old and the novels take place at different times and in different places.  They are not about bloodletting, at least the Comte does not go about leaving a trail of exsanguinated bodies.  These are historical novels whose main point is that we, humans, do far worse things to each other than one, very courtly, vampire can do to us.  They consider the consequences of extreme longevity.  

They are well written historical novels-CQY does her research and that is why I enjoy them- she gets the details and tone right.  Further, as a scientist, I enjoy seeing the Comte deal rationally and scientifically with his condition.  He is an alchemist, progressing to chemistry as the discipline itself evolves.  He has figured out ways to survive largely undetected in human society, and many modern vampires might profit from his innovations!  

He is musical like the historical Saint Germain, and one of the most enjoyable things in the series is the musical thread that runs through them.  In Writ in Blood, at one point he plays one of Chopin’s Études, “Winter Wind”, on the piano.  It was fun to listen to it on Spotify while reading that scene!  The last time I read the book, Spotify didn’t even exist.  The Comte’s own music-he was a prolific composer- is also on Spotify, so it has been great fun listening to it.  I plan to reread the rest of the series!  I need a break from the horrors in the news.  Ironic, no?

Sandya Narayanswami, PhD