Friday, February 26, 2010
Review: Burning Shadows by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Book Description from the publisher:
The conquest of Europe by Attila the Hun is one of the great stories in history. The swift-moving bands of warriors, the inventive military tactics, Attila's commanding personality- all are the stuff of legend. But to the ordinary people who lived in the Huns' path, Attila and his men were the stuff of nightmare. Slaughtering entire villages, laying waste to crops and livestock- the Huns were a terrifying force that destroyed everything in their path.
Concealing his vampire nature, the Count Saint-Germain has been appointed the regional guardian of a small village on the outskirts of the failing Roman Empire. When word comes of the Huns' approach, the villagers- like the residents of many other towns- flee, seeking sanctuary at a nearby monastery. The monks are none too pleased about being invaded by the outside world with all its complications, but the Abbot reminds them of their charitable duties. With the help of Saint-Germain, the leaders of the refugee camps, and a small contingent of warriors, an uneasy peace is established in the crowded monastery as winter approaches.
Among the refugees is a strange, silver-eyed woman whose secret might cost her her life. She hides away in Saint-Germain's infirmary and soon becomes the vampire's lover- and now she has two secrets to hold close, for if word of Saint-Germain's true nature were to spread among the monks and the villagers, his long life would soon be cut dramatically short. As tense months pass and tempers grow ever shorter, Saint-Germain begins to fear that no one- not even he- will escape the monastery alive.
As a longtime fan of the Saint-Germain series I was pleased to see that Burning Shadows held much the same overall tone as the previous novels. Each adventure is unique and Yarbro did another excellent job conveying the terror that the Huns brought to the region, taking the reader on a vivid tour through one of histories most brutal reigns. The book keeps with the tradition of all Saint-Germain novels and begins each chapter with letters written to and from the main characters- giving a depth of detail to both the people and the plot line.
No story about Saint-Germain would be complete without compelling relationships and Burning Shadows certainly delivers. Love is always beautiful and bittersweet with Saint-Germain because the limits of his kind prevent any long lingering love story. After just a handful of blood exchanges brings the risk of turning to a certainty and not everyone he encounters wants to become one of his Blood. Germain always stays in contact with those he loves but the relationship is dramatically changed and limited. The love interest in Burning Shadows is Nicoris and I will admit that she is not one of my favorites, partly because I am so partial to Olivia, who has an appearance in this book, and Madelaine, from the original, Hotel Transylvania. Nicoris has secrets and they put her life at great risk, but she still strikes me as being selfish with Saint-Germain, withholding herself when he is so giving. I loved the inclusion of Olivia and Roger, and through them we are able to see the depth of devotion and loyalty each person feels.
Burning Shadows is 23rd in the Saint-Germain Chronicles and features both historical fiction and romantic elements. Saint-Germain is a timeless and intense vampire hero- one of the best ever written- and his adventures should not be missed. The books can be read either by publication date, which is how I was introduced all those years ago, or one can choose to read them in historical order.
*reviewed by Anna Dougherty for VampChix