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Night Blooming    by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro order for
Night Blooming
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The vampire Count Saint-Germain's latest adventure is set against the backdrop of the Dark Ages when most of Europe is controlled by the Frankish King, Karl-lo-Magne (Charlemagne) and by the church, under the rule of Pope Leo the Third. When 'Hiernom Rakoczy' enters the court of the king, Karl-lo-Magne is duly impressed with the foreigner's vast knowledge and advice. He assigns the vampire the task of delivering an albino woman to Rome for an audience with the Pope, where it shall finally be decided if Gynethe Mehaut is a messenger of god or of the devil.

Gynethe has spent much of her life reviled and feared, and as a ward of the church, tending the night blooming gardens. Not only is she pale as milk with red eyes, she also bleeds unexplainably from her hands. No treatment, no amount of prayer, have reversed the latter condition. The very devout Gynethe is content to allow the church to decide her eventual fate, since no one can explain why she is the way she is. The only one who seems to understand her is the kind and honourable Rakoczy, who realizes that the beautiful young woman's only crime is that she is different, just as he himself is different, having lived millennia as a blood drinker and an immortal.

As directed by the King, Rakoczy and a small contingent escort the girl to Rome. Their long trip allows the two to become closer than merely escort and companion. Becoming one such as Rakoczy may be Gynethe's only way to escape the coming inquisition by the Pope, which would very likely lead to her burning. But doing so would not only present great risk to herself, it could spell doom for the man who wants to save her.

In Night Blooming, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro presents a well written and historically accurate chronicle of the Dark Ages, of the daily court life of Charlemagne, and of the powerful Church. Yet her meticulous eye for detail and description may have short-changed readers by presenting a slow and meandering story that bogs down even more in lengthy descriptions. Her characters, even the ever-honorable and a-typical vampire, Saint-Germain, are presented in an almost detached manner with dialogue that is often redundant, slowing things down even more.

If you're a student of the politics and history of the Dark Ages, then this is a story to investigate, even if you aren't a follower of the Chronicles of Saint-Germain. If you're looking for more typical vampire fare then it might be wise to give Night Blooming a pass.

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