Shattered Glass – by Elaine Bergstrom

Shattered Glass, by Elaine Bergstrom (Berkley, 1989): This story of a single clan of alien vampires is the first book in a series that rivals Yarbro's Saint-Germain chronicles in its potential scope.

The Austra family, though their origins are non-terrestrial, have been a part of human history for millennia. The title refers to their artistry in stained glass; unlike most fictional vampires, who lack any creative spark, the Austras are superb craftsmen, whose genius has contributed to many of the great cathedrals of Europe.

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One of the oldest of their number, Stephen (pronounced “Stefan”), while restoring the windows of a church in Cleveland, meets a young woman, Helen Wells, who carries a share of his family's genes. They fall in love, and he helps her pass over (somewhat like Lichtenberg's Titus) into the vampiric life.

Meanwhile, Stephen's twin brother Charles, driven by despair, has embarked on a murderous rampage with the intent of forcing Stephen to hunt him down and kill him — Austras are incapable of directly committing suicide. In the final confrontation, Charles' death becomes the instrument of Helen's rebirth as a true Austra.

Bergstrom gives her vampires powerful psychic abilities, animal strength, speed, and feral grace, and a dislike for but not an exaggerated vulnerability to daylight. They also possess the ability to immerse their donors in their own memories so vividly that the donor feels he or she has lived the past event.

Bergstrom achieves sensuality without offensive explicitness and horror without gratuitous gore, while weaving a complex plot with a large number of vividly realized characters. The second book of the series, Blood Alone (Berkley, 1990), equally fertile in character and action, follows Stephen and Charles through the early years of World War II. Other volumes have followed.


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