Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 220
Yarbro's Saint-Germain series falls easily into the category of historical romance, with the added interest of a vampire hero, or in the case of this subtrilogy, heroine. These books are unique among vampire novels in that the author uses the longevity of the central characters to take advantage of every historical setting that appeals to her. Her intent is to recreate the period and its particular brand of oppression in order that her protagonists may war against the establishment of that day and either help illustrate the brutality of men or to combat it. The vampirism becomes less important with each novel, and the ironic contrast between the view of vampires as terrifying and dangerous and the reality of how humans can massacre enormous numbers in short periods of time, becomes less significant.
A reviewer commented that A Flame in Byzantium is not a horror novel because "any horror stems not from vampirism but from human acts in an age of religious persecution." The reviewer felt that Olivia's vampirism was "a subplot in an excellent historical novel." Another critic, however, complained that fans of the occult would feel cheated, while lovers of historical fiction would consider Yarbro's work inadequate. "As history," said the Kirkus Review, "her novels are like tales heard over a car radio, vaguely entertaining but quickly forgotten."
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 285
The Saint-Germain series, like any vampire novel, ultimately is traceable to Bram Stoker's Dracula, but beyond that there is little here that will seem familiar to devotees of the traditional vampire-as-child-of-Satan-blood thirsty-killer stories, or even to those who have come to appreciate the more recent vampire stories in which the vampires are intensely aware of their isolation and loneliness, and sometimes even fear that they will eventually be damned for their inevitable murders of their victims. While an occasional nod is given to Saint-Germain's world-weariness and other common vampire traits like a fear of running water and a need to sleep on his native soil, the emphasis in these novels is definitely action on the field and in the bedroom, combined with political intrigue and lengthy descriptions of gore. Further, because Saint-Germain never stalks a prey with whom the reader identifies (although the evil antagonist may), suspense is held to a minimum. One reviewer, in fact, insisted that the sequels were really "prequels" since they all covered an era earlier in time than the original novel, and that it hurt suspense for the reader to know that Saint-Germain would survive his various crises in some way or another.
Yarbro loves to use letters in her novels. In Hotel Transylvania this epistolary technique is successful, with the letters helping to move the plot forward. In the more recent of the series, however, they become too lengthy and cumbersome, and begin to impede the forward momentum of the work. Reviewers have complained about the later novels as they did not about Hotel Transylvania, and by the fourth novel one was already commenting, "this series has run out of steam," in part because of the slow moving events.
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