A FLAME IN BYZANTIUM by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


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Sixth in the Comte de Saint-Germaine time-dancing vampire historicals, begun with Hotel Transylvania (1977) and last seen with Tempting Fate (1981). Yarbro hops back to Constantinople in the time of Justinian and Theodora, with Saint-Germaine a mere stripling of 2400 or so. At that he appears only by letter. Longmemoried readers will recall that the new novel's Roman heroine, Atta Olivia Clemens, first appeared during Nero's reign in Blood Games (1979), wherein she'd been raped by 350 gladiators. She also became the first woman in centuries that Saint-Germaine had fallen in love with, and so he'd made her as immortal as himself. She's now 500 years old, and even though she and he are parted, they are still each other's great love. Here, we find Olivia fleeing Roma, which has been taken by the Ostrogpths. Accompanied by her 500-year-old Greek bondsman Niklos, she buys a villa in Constantinople while awaiting the reconquest of Roma. But Constantinople (formerly Byzantium) is not Roma, and the widow Olivia is hard-pressed to stay afloat in a severely religious, spy-infested town where women's rights are zilch and her Roman customs deemed unchristian. Soon she's victimized by the Censor, eventually sentenced to death by drowning for her unwomanly ways. Before that, she enters a love affair with Captain Drosos, whose neck provides her only two meals in the novel. As in all Yarbro vampire novels, the pulse of true love ends pathetically. First in a subtrilogy about Olivia, this is the series' least horrific entry, with vampirism a mere backdrop for Yarbro's itch to write historicals. As history, her novels are like tales heard over a car radio, vaguely entertaining but quickly forgotten. Despite neat plotting and new restraint on purple prose, occultists will feel shortchanged--and unfed.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's