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States of Grace: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain    by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro order for
States of Grace
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

What's the deal with vampires? I haven't read any other novels about these creatures of the night, so when I started Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's States of Grace, I hoped to answer that question. I now know that vampires live for a long time, are sensitive to water and sunshine, can experience True Death under some circumstances, and don't sleep. There are many unanswered questions, though. Why do vampires drink blood? Why don't they die or sleep? How can Saint-Germain live without intestines?

A short preface with a little background information on vampires would have been extremely helpful. This book is part of a series, but in many other series that I've read it isn't necessary to read all of the preceding books to understand, say, the tenth or twelfth episode. Background information will be sneakily inserted in the first few chapters, or there will be an introductory preface for the new reader. There were allusions to previous times here and there throughout this novel, with some information about vampires in general and Saint-Germain in particular, but I still had a lot of questions when I finished the book. I wondered about his inability to eat or drink, for instance, which seemed to be because of an injury he suffered. His old friend Ruggier, who is a ghoul, is able to eat. There is a lot of detailed description of costumes and the interiors of houses, as well as adequate depictions of characters, towns and countryside. The author attempts to use period spellings and word usages of the time, which results in some descriptive words that I was unable to find in my dictionary. I would have appreciated a glossary of terms.

This does seem to be an excellent portrayal of the Reformation time period around 1530, when Europe and England are torn by religious reform and conflict, with the Spanish Catholics trying to keep change from occurring. It seems as if Saint-Germain's story is most useful as a means of giving the reader a picture of that time period, as his story seems slight except as an illustration of how things were. As an outsider (his foreign status is mentioned frequently) he not only provides an overview, he also can compare this time with previous ones. He does this when communicating with his friends, Ruggier or Atta Olivia Clemens. Saint-Germain comes across as such a good person, so concerned about the welfare of all people, not just the ones he is close to. Twice he uses the medical skills he has learned in his long life to help sick or injured people. He is also generous with his money, helping unfortunate strangers as well as his associates.

I am left wondering about this saintly vampire, who tries so hard to do good and agonizes over mankind. If vampires are so noble, how did they get such a bad rep? I enjoyed States of Grace though, and recommend it as a terrific portrayal of the Reformation.

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