The year 536 A.D. finds ancient vampire Saint-Germain as a merchant trader in medieval Shanghai. Then the volcano Krakatoa erupts and throws dirt and sulfur into the air across Asia. With no explanation but the supernatural for the chaos, China is suddenly a dangerous place for foreigners.

Meeting up with a nomadic tribe led by female shaman Dukkai, Germain and his faithful companion Roger travel the Silk Road, seeking shelter from spreading turmoil. For a time Dukkai is both Germain's lover and source of sustenance, but when his last store of native soil is lost, Germain must journey west with Roger. After centuries of exile, Saint-Germain is going home to Transylvania.

Saint-Germain is a compelling figure, more appealing than the modern vampires of Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton, but readers looking for a fast-paced horror should look elsewhere. Meticulously researched and exquisitely detailed, this is essentially a historical novel with elements of romance and the supernatural, and it's an absorbing if somewhat dense read.

Although there are some confusing name changes, in-depth knowledge of the series is not necessary to appreciate this tale. (Nov. '04, 464 pp., $27.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum