|Title: An Embarrassment of Riches
Author: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Series: Saint-Germain #24
Cover Art: Jitka Saniova/Trevillion images
Genre: Paranormal History
Reviewed by: Julia
References to oral sex and non-consensual sex.
Good – A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.
More than two decades strong, the Saint-Germain cycle is one of the most compelling works of dark fantasy and horror of our age. Historically accurate, often involving key events or figures from throughout world history, these deeply emotional novels have a devoted readership. Each novel is written as a stand-alone and they are not chronologically consecutive, so readers may enter the saga with any book and move backward or forward in time as they choose, from Pharaonic Egypt to Paris in the 1700s, from the fall of the Roman Empire to World War II Europe.
In An Embarrassment of Riches, the vampire Count finds himself a virtual prisoner in the Court of Kunigunde in Bohemia in the 1200s. Rakoczy Ferncsi, as Saint-Germain is known, passes his days making jewels to delight Queen Kunigunde and trying not to become involved in the Court’s intrigues. In this, the vampire fails. Handsome, apparently wealthy, and obviously unmarried, he soon finds himself being sexually blackmailed by Rozsa, an ambitious lady-in-waiting. If he does not satisfy her, she will denounce him to the priests and he’ll be burned at the stake, resulting in his True Death. Despite his care, the vampire makes more than one enemy at the Bohemian Court, and by the end of An Embarrassment of Riches, the Count can see only one road to freedom…through death.
A meticulous novel, AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES brought to mind an elaborate version of THE HISTORIAN, told from the vampire’s perspective. As much a historical novel as anything else, the supernatural elements of the story were as realistically imagined as any other aspect of daily life. To further add to the feeling of reading primary source material, Yarbro intermixes letters between the chapters, a device that made me feel as threatened and engaged as any of the main characters trying to unwind the political and religious intrigues around them.
Despite the many books that have come before RICHES in this series, Saint-Germain’s perspective is easily accessible to a new reader. I had no difficulty feeling involved, perhaps because Saint-Germain is as much as an outsider in his surroundings as I myself was.
As pivotal as Saint-Germain’s perspective was to maintaining my place in the story story, I believe that is also why the emotion that dominated my mood when I finished this book was “melancholy”. The realities of daily life in court are grim, made even more so by the machinations of the Church. All of the women in RICHES, other than Saint-Germain’s epistolary vampire companion Olivia, were stunted in some way by the political and religious realities of their lives. I thought it was fascinating how Saint-Germain responded to threats of violence and rape, but his mute reaction to exploitation was as sad as these women’s inability to trust, love, or find physical satisfaction in any relationship that wasn’t a power struggle.
While this particular snapshot of Saint-Germain’s life was both fascinating and sad, I still felt like there were hints of happier times both ahead and in his past. It was the sadness in this book that knocked my rating for RICHES from four bats down to three (as not everyone will enjoy the tension and somber tone), but I will definitely come back to this series for more fascinating history and perhaps a happier Saint-Germain.