For the "Read by candlelight or flashlight" square.
My book club edition of The Saint Germain Chronicles won't show up in search -- probably because I'm doing something wrong somewhere along the line -- but I wanted this cover to show, not the paperback cover.
Disclosure: This was a gift in 1983 from a fellow writer and Saint Germain fan. I do not know the author and have never communicated with her regarding this or any of her other writing. I am an author of romance novels and some non-fiction. Just so you know. ;-)
"The Spider Glass" is the first in this collection of five short stories about Yarbro's honorable vampire, the Count of Saint Germain. This was supposed to be the sixth and final installment after five complete novels, but several years later, Yarbro picked it up again and new titles continue to appear. There are now thirty books in the series.
I hadn't read "The Spider Glass" in at least 20 years, and it may be even longer than that. I remember reading it aloud to a group of friends during a "let's stay up all night" gab-fest the week before moving to Arizona in 1985, and it's possible I haven't read it since. Though it might have fit the "creepy crawlie" square as well, the nature of the story seemed ideal for reading in the otherwise dark.
In the very early days of the twentieth century, a group of six aristocratic Englishmen meet at the home of Charles Whittenfield, ninth Earl of Copsehowe, for an evening's entertainment. After dinner, while they are relaxing with port and cigars, the earl regales them with the history of how the small mirror known as the Spider Glass came into his family's possession. He claims it was acquired by an aunt of nine generations ago, who left a detailed diary of her adventures nearly three hundred years earlier.
Whittenfield's telling is frequently interrupted by comments from his guests, most of whom scoff at the seeming fantastic nature of Aunt Sabrina's account, though the sixth member of the group occasionally adds a bit of quiet clarification of things like historical and scientific facts. Sometimes his input is acknowledged, sometimes not.
Though on the surface the story is about the mirror and the jeweled spider alleged to be visible in it under very special circumstances, there is also the portrait of privileged male society and its attitudes, especially toward women, to make the reading a little more than just entertainment.
The ending, of course, isn't really a surprise. Or is it?
Had I been asked before this rereading to rate the story, I would have given all five stars unhesitatingly. On this particular reread, however, I found some little flaws in the flow of the narrative that I thought could have been smoothed over better. Yarbro's writing is so clean, so evocative, so invisible, that these tiny bits stood out for me from an otherwise delightful work.
I have the first five novels and have read them, and I have one of the subsequent books but have not yet read it. I suppose I should start acquiring them, too, but oh, mercy, the tbr collection is so huge already!
Someone recommended another vampire series to me a few weeks ago, but I politely declined, saying that Yarbro's Saint Germain has apparently spoiled me for the rest. Tempting Fate and The Palace are my favorites, and they've been reread several times. It may be time to take them off the shelf, now that my appetite has been whetted again. Pun intended, of course.