From Publishers Weekly
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“Saint-Germain is a compelling figure, more appealing than the modern vampires of Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton.”--Romantic Times BOOKreviews
“Saint-Germain is a cultured and compassionate figure, occupied with the spread of knowledge through publishing and the child custody struggles of his lover, Hero Corvosaggio. [The relationship between] Saint-Germain and Hero is explored in fine-grained emotional as well as physical details.”--Publishers Weekly on Borne in Blood
“One of her finest. Sensuous scenes are lush with language. Meticulous attention to historic detail and vivid writing bring an ancient era to life. Unlike most generic vampire novels that can be quaffed in a quick if entertaining gulp, this book should be savored like fine wine.”--Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Roman Dusk
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“Ah! Excellent! Excellent!” exclaimed Wallache Gerhard Winifrith Sieffert, Graf von Ravensberg, as he continued to draw blood into the glass syringe. “So glossy.” He lifted the syringe, pulling on the tubing connecting it to the subject so that the afternoon sunlight struck it with full brilliance, making brass fittings, glass, and blood shine. A complicated apparatus stood on the low table at his side, a device of his own invention, one of a dozen littering this third-floor room that von Ravensberg called his laboratory. He took care not to brush his Turkish dressing-gown with the syringe, more to protect the blood than the fine damask silk.
Heinrich Thorbern was lying on a cot between von Ravensberg and the apparatus, his long, boiled-wool coat draped over the single chair and his shirt-sleeve rolled up to above his elbow; he gasped as the needle in his arm pulled. “Is that good?” he asked, becoming a bit worried as he watched von Ravensberg marvel at the blood in the glass syringe. He was a pleasant enough man in his late twenties, regular-featured and healthy, a successful independent farmer, able to read and write—all in all, an ideal subject for von Ravensberg: exactly the fine example of German yeomanry he sought.
“It is most . . . encouraging,” said von Ravensberg, scowling at Thorbern. “Do lie still, Herr Thorbern.”
“But it hurts when you pull.”
“Lie still,” von Ravensberg repeated. “You must not move about in that way.”
“But Baron—” Thorbern protested.
“I will not take much longer,” said von Ravensberg, annoyed that his exuberance was not shared. “I need to complete getting the sample, you understand. Then I will subject the blood to tests, and you may be on your way. With my gratitude.” This last was an afterthought.
Thorbern sighed and did his best to be comfortable. He was feeling a bit cold, attributing the chill to the coolness of the room; there was snow on the roof of the Schloss as befitted this January morning, and although a fire burned on the grate, the heat did not spread much past the hearth. “So long as it is useful, Baron.”
“All inquiry is useful, young man; you should appreciate that,” said von Ravensberg with finality. He made a point of putting his full attention on the man’s blood. “This rich, fine color and shine is an indication, I believe, of superior composition. You may be confident that I will examine it closely.”
“Because of its color?” Thorbern had slaughtered enough cattle, hogs, and sheep to have seen great quantities of blood: never had he noticed much difference in the color or characteristic of any of it.
“The color, the luminosity, the texture and composition of it, the characteristics present in its nature,” said von Ravensberg, mildly distracted. He indicated his fine microscope, its brass gleaming, with a wooden box filled with glass slides beside it. “Thanks to this wonderful device, we know there are many components to blood, and it is my belief that when we truly understand the whole nature of blood, we will have a definitive measure of all men.” He tapped the syringe, now almost full. “This will help me to uncover what the blood has hidden.”
Although this made little sense to Thorbern, he was too well-mannered to say so. “It sounds very complex.”
“That it is, that it is, far more complex than anyone would have thought, and possibly possessing many more mysteries than what is currently surmised,” said von Ravensberg, He tapped the syringe, watching the movement of the blood. “It is a daunting task, to discover all that blood has within it. Many other scholars would recoil at the demands of so ambitious an undertaking, but not I; no, I am determined to—” He broke off as he heard a rap on his door. “Who is it?” he demanded gruffly.
“It’s Hyacinthie, Uncle,” she called through the door. “A messenger has arrived. He brings you word from—”
“I’m almost done here. Have him wait in the library. Give him something to eat and a tankard of our beer. And see you don’t make a pest of yourself.” He resumed his work with the syringe.
“Do you wish to stop?” Thorbern asked.
“No. Not yet.” There was still a little room left in the syringe. “A minute more, or two, and it should be done.” He tried to offer an appreciative smile but without success. “You must know that I value your cooperation and your participation highly. Very highly. Many of the people in this region are ignorant, superstitious, and out-right fools. But not all countrymen are louts. You have enough education”—five years in the local school—“to grasp the implications of this study, why it must be done, how much it will change our—” He stopped. “The syringe is full. If you will lie still for a moment longer, I’ll remove the needle and you can sit up.”
Thorbern could not conceal his relief; his mouth quirked, but no smile emerged. He winced as von Ravensberg reached over and carefully drew the needle from the vein on the inside of his elbow. Taking his pocket kerchief, he pressed it to the welling of blood that followed; after a minute he lifted the corner of the handkerchief and scowled as his blood continued to run. “Will this be all, Graf?”
“For now,” he said, his attention focused on the blood in the syringe. “You are fortunate to have such fine blood, Herr Thorbern. Not many specimens look as fine as this one, or show such promise.”
“Pleased to be of service,” said Thorbern automatically. He sat up, feeling a bit queasy as he did; his head ached dully and he felt thirsty. “How much blood did you take, Graf, if I may ask?”
“Hum?” He turned, the syringe still in his hands. “Oh. You can see for yourself.”
The sight of his own blood in that shiny glass tube with the brass plunger and needle-casing made Thorbern’s stomach churn. “It would fill a cowmaid’s ladle,” he said in mild surprise, for it was more than von Ravensberg had taken in the past: it was less than would fill a beer-stein, but more than a cup. He nodded and turned away, doing his best to regain his composure. “Thank you, Graf. I—”
“You are advancing the cause of science; do not doubt it, Herr Thorbern.”
“I am pleased to be of service,” said Thorbern. He started to rise but thought better of it; he tucked his handkerchief back into his pocket and busied himself with rolling down his sleeve, although he noticed the blood had not completely stopped.
“And I thank you for it,” said von Ravensberg without any attempt at sincerity. “If you know any others like you—strong, healthy, young, German or Austrian—ask them if they would be willing to participate in my studies, would you? I would welcome all such specimens to my Schloss, rest assured. That would be most useful for my researches. No Czechs or Bohemians or Poles, mind: Germans and Austrians only.” He put the syringe into an aperture in his device, and slowly depressed the plunger. “If you’re feeling a bit unsteady, go down to the morning room and have my niece bring you a restorative dish for you to eat. Hyacinthie needs something to do. A tankard of beer should set you up, and some bread and sausage.”
Thorbern made another attempt at getting to his feet. This time he succeeded, though he lurched a little and his vision swayed. He reached for his coat as much to steady himself as to don the garment. His thoughts wandered and he blinked several times. “Would they have to be relatives, or would comrades do?”
Von Ravensberg gave this his serious consideration. “Both would be welcome,” he decided aloud. “Yes. Send me word if you find appropriate subjects.”
“Jawol, Graf. I will.” He struggled into his coat and took an unsteady step toward the door.
“Will you be able to let me take more blood next month?” Von Ravensberg knew he had asked this too quickly, but he could not hold himself in check. “The same arrangement as we have had before? So I may determine what impact the weather may have upon your blood.”
“Do you think it does?” Thorbern asked.
“I think it might,” said von Ravensberg carefully. “And for that reason, comparisons are necessary to make a full and accurate analysis. One set of analyses is not enough to demonstrate anything useful. It is the comparisons that matter. I will subject this sample to an electrical current. Surely you can see the value in that. I will do the same with the rest.” He finished shunting the contents of the syringe and turned to face his subject. “Think about it, Thorbern. You could be among the first men to have the mystery of his blood at last understood. It is a great honor.”
“A very great honor,” Thorbern echoed dubiously.
“You will come then?” von Ravensberg pursued.
“I suppose so, God willing, and there are no more avalanches.” He looked toward the window. “There will be more snow tonight, and if the storm lasts, it will be several days before the roads are safe to travel.”
“Even from four leagues away? Surely one of your strengthy cart horses could make the journey?” He was losing p...