CRUSADER'S TORCH by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


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Third in the vampire sub-trilogy about Atta Olivia Clemens in the Comte de Saint-Germain horror historicals, begun with Hotel Transylvania (1977) and last seen with A Flame in Byzantium (1987). Having fled Roma during the invasion of the Ostrogoths and holed up in then newly Christianized Constantinople, where her womanhood allowed her no rights, Olivia is now in Tyre, has aged 500 years, and is a pat 1100 years old. Richard the Lion-Hearted, leading the Fourth Crusade to recover Jersualem from the Islamites, has the Mideast in turmoil. Longing for her birthplace on Roman soil again, Olivia directs her same-aged Greek bondsman Niklos to Roma to set up new quarters for her. However, Roma is itself in bad shape, its walls in disrepair and aqueducts full of fever. Meanwhile, hospitaler Sier Valence Rainaut, a young French knight and widower, falls like an oak for Olivia and becomes her champion. But Olivia, a sensible, bargaining vamp making her own way in a man's world, has been warned by St. Germain about the brevity of the lives around her and resists her heart-tuggings toward the smitten mortal. Germain himself still loves her but is far away in the Mongol camp Karakhorum. Lusting for her, Rainaut slakes himself on a courtesan rather than mar his ideal love for Olivia, and she has her joys quenched by an Arab sensualist. Attacked at sea by pirates, she nearly dies swimming with Rainaut to Cyprus, her immortality-insuring Roman earth washing from her sandals, but at last on shore Rainaut saves her life by damning himself and giving her his body and his blood. However, he has a rare disease, much like leprosy, is thrown out of the Hospitalers, and the lovers bed down in Cyprus for their last frenzied days of love. But they fall out and she leaves for Roma. More focused on Olivia's love and blood-needs than A Flame in Byzantium and even more compulsive reading, although the lofty dialogue is laughable. One of the better entries in the series, but skip the scene-setting seven-page author's note, an indigestible historical summary.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1988
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's