Yarbro's "historical horror novel"s, as they are described on their covers, are actually historical romances featuring a vampire as the continuing hero. 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, it may help to have some ways to categorize these novels. Thus: BunRab's Standard Vampire Classification Guide. 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 (although Yarbro is equally well known as a science fiction writer), 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. In most of the series, sex is treated discreetly and is rarely described; this book, however, features more sex, and more blood, than most. 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.
Path of the Eclipse is really two separate novellas, with a bridge between them. St Germain starts out in China, in the first story. As China grows suspicious of foreigners, due to the incursions of the Mongols (it's the early 13th century), St. Germain finds it prudent to leave the city, and travel to an outpost. There, he is to help defend a fortress from the Mongols. The fortress is unusual in having a female Warlord. This section of the book is a good read for the plot, the strategy, and the unusualness of the setting. Where many of us are somewhat familiar with the historical setting of the series when they take place in Europe or the Americas, we tend to be far less familiar with the history of the Orient. There are fascinating details here. There is also a "side" story about some traveling Nestorian Christians, with hints of Yarbro's opinions as to how Christianity might alternatively have developed.
After the fortress falls, finally, St. Germain escapes by way of Tibet, where along the journey he meets a child Master at a Buddhist lamasary. This is one of the very few occasions in the series where there is any hint of the supernatural other than the vampire characters and their ghoul servants.
The second story in the book has St. Germain arriving in India. He is caught up in the machinations of a cult of Kali, goddess of destruction. While there are interesting parts of this story, it is also one of the bloodiest in the entire series; the literal bloodbath that takes place is gruesome. I did NOT enjoy most of this story because of its explicitness.