Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 635
Saint-Germain is good to the extent that he has almost nothing with which to revile himself after four thousand years of life. He never kills, he fights for truth and justice, and he fights evil human males, usually in hand-to-hand combat, in order to right the wrongs they have inflicted or wish to inflict. He has been referred to by critics as the Robin Hood of vampires and the Prince Charming of the darker arts. No one has yet referred to him as the Lone Vampire and his faithful companion, but the comparison is tempting. Some readers find this revisionist vampire novel form to be fascinating; others will not even pick it up, on the grounds that the vampire element has become sanitized to the point that there is no longer any horror or sense of lurking threat, and that the vampire level of self-acceptance is too high even to admit a sense of tragedy or an adequate sense of isolation. It is altogether inappropriate to imagine a need to drive a stake through Saint-Germain's tender heart, although one could easily conceive of a group of misled and narrow-minded human beings dedicated to just that end.
The evil opposition, is correspondingly, without redeeming qualities. One reviewer complained that Saint Sebastien, for example, was so extreme a villain that the author "apparently felt she had to scrape the floor of a charnel house" to find someone bad enough to put up against a vampire as hero. Evil, however, is in the eyes of the beholder. A science fiction reviewer, less thin-skinned, found the Baron an example of "stark reality." "He is one of those homicidal maniacs who [sic] we have become so familiar with today. Think of the Manson, or Texas mass murders, or the British moor murders in which children were tortured to death and their cries tape-recorded."
The women are, for those who appear in the works of a "non-dogmatic feminist," as Yarbro called herself in a 1977 Berkeley Barb interview, rather passive and helpless, with notable exceptions such as the valiant Warlord Ten Chihyu in The Path of the Eclipse. The nondogmatic form of feminism which Yarbro espouses appears to include an acute awareness of the actual helplessness (and thus passivity) of women throughout the eras in history which she treats, and thus leads to an emphasis on their roles as victims. The redoubtable woman, as an exception in history, is also in short supply in her historical novels. The author has defended the right to use unflattering portraits of women "if a female twit happens to be necessary to the plot-line," which means that the dogmatic feminists are probably distressed at her, although none has reviewed her works and said as much.
In keeping with her feminist leanings, Yarbro presents a heroine who asserts her rights against social oppression, at a time when the new state religion of Christianity is driving out and repressing the old pagan ways.
In the Saint-Germain series, Atta Olivia Clemens was saved from her tomb by her lover, Saint-Germain, and vindicated by the Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus after he orders the public beheading of her vicious husband Justus as punishment for his brutality. Once free of the sexual dominance and violence of her husband (whom she tolerated only because he held her entire family's fate in his hands), Olivia was free to develop her true personality. In the trilogy she loves only liberated men, although Yarbro seems to prefer that they be males who are of a martial bent, perhaps the more to underscore their gentility and considerate treatment of women. The male romantic characters in each book are much like one another, whether they be knight or army officer or musketeer. These are women's fantasy books, and those heroes, who are not princes or counts, need uniforms.
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