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Dark of the Sun: A Novel of Saint-Germain    by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro order for
Dark of the Sun
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (2004)
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Having never read any of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain novels before, I've concluded that Dark of the Sun was not a good place to start. A loose plot with very little action, and characters whose names change along the way (without background information on them at the beginning) made the book long and confusing for a first-time Saint-Germain reader.

The story opens as Zangi-Rogozh (a foreign merchant living in China) and his small band of servants prepare to set off to see the new emperor. It's around 536 AD just after the Krakatoa eruption. This has changed the weather world-wide, and it's unseasonably cold. Soon the ground is covered in a yellow snow. Harsh weather makes for harsh living conditions, which lead to peasant uprisings. Soon Zangi-Rogozh's Chinese servants are seized to serve in the Army. Left only with his faithful, long-time companion, Ro-shei, Zangi-Rogozh decides to return to his homeland of Transylvania.

As the pair travel west along the Silk Road, they meet up with a caravan of nomads known as the 'Desert Cats'. Zangi-Rogozh and Ro-shei travel with them for as long as they can until they part to go their separate ways. Zangi-Rogozh forms a friendship with the nomad magician Dukkai, and is pleased to meet her again in the Near East. By now, Zangi-Rogozh goes by the name of Rogoczy Franciscus, Ro-shei has become Rojeh, and things have taken a turn for the worse for the Desert Cats, who have lost their leader in an avalanche. Dukkai attempts to sacrifice Rogoczy Franciscus, but is rejected by her clan when the vampire fails to bleed. Rojeh rescues his master and they continue at a faster pace on their way.

The majority of the novel covers the journey from China to Transylvania. While some minor mishaps, like a wolf attack, occur en route, there's no significant action for the first 300 pages or so of this 460 page story, making it hard to keep engaged. Also detrimental to a reader's interest are letters at the end of each chapter. While they do provide a feel for world events during this difficult time, they also break up what little action there is. But what Yarbro lacks in plot, she makes up in character development. I initially had no clue who the main characters were, but as they journeyed west, their relationship and history becomes clearer. It was interesting to learn why the characters act the way they do, though I imagine it would be even more enjoyable for a reader already familiar with the vampire and his demon companion. Yarbro also does an excellent job of creating the atmosphere of the Dark Ages in the East.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Dark of the Sun is not a book for everyone. Existing fans of the Saint-Germain novels will surely enjoy this in depth character study. Horror novel fans, however, should look elsewhere for the action and terror they crave.

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