20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
R. Kelly Wagner
- Published on Amazon.com
Blood Games is set in Nero's Rome, in the 817th Year of the City. (about 60 C.E.) The book is the third one written in the series; it is one of the earliest in terms of historical chronology. Despite being the third one written, it is a good one to start with if one is first starting the whole series, because this is the book in which St. Germain acquires his bondsman, Roger, who will be a continuing character in the series. The spectacles at the Circus Maximus form a large part of the book, along with the corruption of Roman politics. The book is well titled; there is a great deal of blood and violence both in and out of the arena. Atta Olivia Clemens is the wife of Senator Cornelius Justus Silius, one of the most corrupt and perverse of the Romans. St. Germain rescues her from his cruelties through bringing her "to his life," that is, turning her into a vampire also. Olivia will be a continuing character in the series for another millenium and a half. An epilogue set in the 855th Year of the City gives perspective, and establishes the pattern of letters between Olivia and St. Germain which is used in future books of the series to set the scene and bring us up to date.
Those who already know that they like vampire novels, anything at all that features a vampire, can skip this review, and likewise, those who hate the whole idea of vampires can skip it. But for those trying to decide whether or not to read more of this genre, or whether the one vampire novel you've already read was a fluke, it may help if we have some ways to categorize these novels. Thus: BunRab's Standard Vampire Elements. First, most authors of vampire novels approach from one of the main genres of genre fiction; thus their background may be primarily in romance, or in science fiction/fantasy, or in murder mysteries, or in horror. Second, many vampire novels come in series; knowing whether this is one of a series, and where in the series it falls, may be helpful. Then we have some particular characteristics: - Is the vampire character (or characters) a "good guy" or a "bad guy"? Or are there some of each? - Are there continuing characters besides the vampire, through the series? - Are there other types of supernatural beings besides vampires? - Can the vampire stand daylight under some circumstances, or not stand daylight at all? - Does the vampire have a few other supernatural characteristics, many other supernatural characteristics, or none other than just being a vampire? (E.g., super strength, change into an animal, turn invisible) - Does the vampire have a regular job and place in society, or is being a vampire his or her entire raison d'etre? - Does the vampire literally drink blood, or is there some other (perhaps metaphorical) method of feeding? - Is sex a major plot element, a minor plot element, or nonexistent? - Is the entire vampire feeding act a metaphor for sex, part of a standard sex act, or unrelated to sex? - Is the story set in one historical period, more than one historical period, or entirely in the present day? - Does the story have elements of humor, or is it strictly serious? - Is the writing style good, or is the writing just there to manage to hold together the plot and characters?
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's series about the vampire St. Germain starts from the historical romance genre, and is a continuing series. St. Germain is definitely a good guy, using the knowledge he's gained in several thousand years of living to help others. There are a few characters that continue from book to book besides him: the women he turns into vampires, and his "servant," Roger, who is a ghoul. Ghouls are the only other supernatural characters who appear in these books. St. Germain can stand daylight with the right preparations. He has unusual strength, but not limitless, and unusual wisdom, and is an "alchemist" but there are no other overt magic powers. In most of the series, he has an occupation of being an aristocrat, insofar as that was a full-time occupation through most of history; in some books he has another "job" as well. St. Germain does not literally drink blood; he feeds on emotions, usually during erotic experiences, but sex is nonetheless only a minor plot element, rare and very discreet. The series covers 3000 years, from ancient Egypt to the modern day; each book is set in a span of a particular period, usually 20-30 years. The writing is serious, but not self-important; the writing quality is excellent, and Yarbro's abilities as an author qualify these books as literature rather than "merely" genre fiction.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's extremely civilized, debonair vampire protagonist Comte de Saint-Germain appears in "Blood Games" as Ragoczy Sanct' Germain Franciscus, an import/shipping magnate living in the Rome of Emperor Nero. As a matter of fact, the year before this story begins, in 64 AD, a mammoth fire raged through Rome for nine days, destroying two-thirds of the city. Although Nero was at the coastal resort of Antium when the fire broke out, (yes, this is the one where he supposedly played his fiddle...actually it was a lyre!), the conflagration and subsequent destruction were to his advantage. One of Nero's more ambitious plans was to tear down a third of Rome so that he could build an elaborate series of palaces that would be known as Neropolis. The senate, however, objected to this proposal. History has put the blame for the fire on Nero - but no one knows to this day how it started.
Anyway...back to "Blood Games," and Rome in 65 AD is busy rebuilding after the disaster. Nero, who began his reign with such promise is showing signs of madness in the extreme. During this period a series of treason laws were put to deadly use against anyone considered a threat. These laws are to have devastating consequences for Sanct' Germain and those he holds dear. The back-stabbing, political and literal, has not changed since the days when Julius Caesar said. "Et tu, Brutus?" Our protagonist manages to maneuver through the dangers of life in the Big City, surviving seven emperors in as many years, by being politically savvy and above reproach in his business and social dealings. All this changes when he meets and begins to love Atta Olivia Clemens, the wife of the powerful and corrupt Senator Cornelius Justus Silius. The senator delights in degrading and debasing his wife and there is little Sanct' Germain can do to improve her situation without giving himself away as a vampire with preternatural powers. Sanct' Germain/Ragoczy will bring Olivia into her Unlife during Roman Emperor Vespasian's reign (c.72). She is a recurring character throughout this series. Roger, a former bondsman from Gades, (Cádiz, Spain), is resurrected by Sanct' Germain in 71 AD and is introduced here also. He is another recurring character and serves as Saint-Germain's valet and close friend in future books.
A fascinating subplot involves three of Ragoczy's "slaves:" Aumtehoutep, a Ghoul and former novice of Thoth whom the vampire brought back from near death during the reign of Rameses II; Tishtry an Armenian woman, champion charioteer and horse trainer who volunteers her blood and love; and Kosrozd, formerly a Persian prince, now a renowned charioteer who wins great sums of money for Sanct' Germain. As a result of their roles in the novel, much of the narrative is set in the Circus' Maximus and Flavian, providing terrific action and excitement.
"Blood Games" is the third book published in the series. I believe there are 16 Saint-Germain novels with a 17th due out soon. I began with "The Palace" which is set in Renaissance Florence. "Hotel Transylvania's" setting is Paris, 1743, and this is my third venture into Ms. Yarbro's historical-fiction-supernatural world. Ragoczy/Sanct' Germain is neither Bram Stocker's brand of vampire nor does he resemble Anne Rice's Lestat. He IS a hero, not an anti-hero. You won't find fangs, gore, and horror of the supernatural kind in "Blood Games," although there's more than enough blood and violence caused by humans. Our vampire is an exceptionally nice guy - who just happens to have walked the earth since the beginning of time, practically. He does not personify evil, and, unlike other vampiric creations, he is able to stroll about in daylight as long as he carries soil from his homeland in his shoes. He does need blood to survive - but the human donor must be willing to give a pint or two or he won't drink. And true emotional attachments nourish Sanct' Germain as much as the blood he takes. So the concept of "love" and affection figure strongly here.
I don't know how important it is to read the books in order of publication as the stories do not take place in chronological order historically. The author has done an extraordinary job of vividly portraying life in the first century Rome with its opulence, excesses, and political and social intrigues. Ms. Quinn Yarbro is truly a master at writing historical fiction. Her research is impeccable and the narrative is filled with fascinating period details.
The novel is rich in characters and storyline. I highly recommend it. I liked it enough to order more books in the series. ENJOY!