cover image Darker Jewels

Darker Jewels

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Tor Books, $19.95 (398pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85296-2

In her rich and complex tale of the further wanderings of the immortal vampire known as Ferenc Rakoczy, Hrabia (Count) Saint-Germain, Yarbro ( Ariosto ) brings to vivid life the dark and bloody 16th-century court of Ivan IV or, more commonly, Ivan the Terrible. In an attempt to gain Russian aid in the war against the Turks, the Polish king Istvan Bathory sends Rakoczy to Moscovy, hoping the count's alchemical skill will win over the half-crazed czar. Despite Russian xenophobia and almost hysterical efforts to discredit him by his fellow envoy, Jesuit Father Casimir Pogner, Rakoczy initially advances in his objective, even marrying a Russian noblewoman at the czar's behest. After Ivan's death, however, the count finds himself in the midst of fierce intrigues over control of the feeble-minded czarevitch Feodor due to his friendship with the half-Tartar regent Boris Godunov. Underlying this absorbing and historically accurate work is a deep melancholy, reflecting both the immortal vampire's lost past and the tortured workings of the Russian soul. (Apr.)