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Commedia della Morte
A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain
by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor Books; $29.99; 429pp
Release Date: March 13, 2012
A perfect summer read: an adventure with the eternally urbane Count Saint-Germain, Yarbo’s utterly delicious and refined vampire hero.

In this novel the year is 1792. The French Revolution and the Terror have swallowed France whole. Most of the aristos have had their date with Madame Guillotine and now the revolutionaries have turned their attention to shopkeepers, clerks and whomever they think is a threat to the revolution.

So, France is not that year’s best travel destination.

The Count Saint-Germain is currently living in Padova , Italy where he is enjoying himself by hosting a traveling Commedia del’ Arte troupe lead by the beautiful Photine d’Auville, who is also Saint-Germain’s bed mate.

Into this idyllic situation comes Theron Heurer, Madeleine de Montalia’s poet and lover with the terrible news that the Revolutionary Tribunal has cast its net and taken Madeleine prisoner. Madeleine is a vampire made by Saint-Germain and the two have a deep abiding love for the other.

The news galvanizes Saint-Germain to rescue Madeleine. He convinces Photine that she and her theater troupe must go on tour in France , and hopefully, in Avignon , where Madeleine is being taken to, they can use the troupe to spirit Madeleine away.

However, the usual commedia del’arte fare is a little too ancien regime so Madeleine’s poet is convinced to write something new and a little less aristo to allay any French suspicions that they might be counter-Revolutionaries. So he comes up with a series of vignettes that end in death for the thinly veiled enemies of the revolution. The troupe renames themselves the Commedia della Morte in its honor.

Vive la Revolution!

Saint-Germain in his usual wonderfully organized way provisions the troupe and becomes their patron and financial support on a tour that will take them to Avignon .

What happens there is they find Madeleine and a group of other prisoners have been diverted to Lyon because the tribunal in Avignon (and its prison) is over-worked and over-crowded.

Saint-Germain must come up with an alternate rescue plan before Madeleine meets up with Tribunal and the threat of a True Death.

Yarbro always writes a story marinated in historical detail and gives the reader a well-constructed look at the world Saint-Germain currently inhabits. This was a fascinating look at traveling theater and the unraveling edges of the French Revolution. Better than just about anything on cable! ~~ Sue Martin

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