When I was done the honour by Vamped to be asked to review the new Anne Rice novel I wondered, do I confess…
You see, none of the previous books of the Vampire Chronicles appear on Taliesin Meets the Vampires—simply because I had read them all prior to beginning the blog. Yet the confession would have to be that I have had a love/hate relationship with Anne Rice’s books and I think, before reviewing this volume I should explain.
The first three books of the series—Interview with the Vampire (1976), The Vampire Lestat (1985) and Queen of the Damned (1988)—I adore. Rice took the figure of the vampire and created a new mythology that took hold of the genre in certain ways for decades to come.
Like many readers of the books, The Vampire Lestat took hold of me and created a new Rock and Roll icon within the vampire world but that world, itself, was lushly Gothic and beautifully tragic. However all was not well – I felt that Rice had fallen in love with her primary character and had made him much too powerful. When an author does this they complicate further chapters of their story.
The fourth book, Tales of the Body Thief (1992), I disliked—but that is because I dislike bodyswap stories generally. Memnoch the Devil (1995) I adored but it never felt like part of the Chronicles to me, and perhaps I loved it for that very reason seeing more a modern take on Dante or Milton, but then there came The Vampire Armand (1998).
To me it embodied the worst excesses of Rice’s work—perhaps summed up in the thought, why use a paragraph of description when twenty pages would do, so thick and lush in its language that the Gothic beauty I described earlier became an impenetrable forest of purple prose.
The next two novellas were technically not classed as part of the Vampire Chronicles, but Pandora (1998) and Vittorio the Vampire (1999) brought me back from the “Armand brink” as they were so slim that Rice had to eschew the purple prose entirely and concentrate on that most important of things—story.
The next volume, Merrick (2000), was unfortunately for me, mostly forgettable but Blood and Gold (2001) was magnificent, probably my favourite novel after the first three. Blackwood Farm (2002) I did enjoy and despite some popular criticism from the main fan base I also enjoyed Blood Canticle (2003), though it never felt so much like a story within the Chronicles and more an experiment in prose.
This massive pre-amble is given to show my feelings on the previous Chronicles, a massively genre important series but for me a bit hit and miss.
So, Prince Lestat… Rice has absented herself from the Chronicles for eleven years and her return is marked by making Lestat centre stage but also by creating a book that—in many respects—could easily have slotted in as the fourth in the series in terms of theme. This is no bad thing, immediately bringing the story into the orbit of the core and most important books in the Chronicles.
The book concerns itself primarily with the ancients—and those vampires, like Lestat, who are not ancient but have become powerful through imbibing ancient blood. The prose has returned to a tragically beautiful level without straying into the purple and Rice moves narrative and focus between character.
What struck me was how unique Lestat’s voice is within the narrative, how noticeably down to earth—to the point that we see a marked character difference between Lestat and all the other immortals; important as this actually drives believability into the main plot points.
The book does stretch over a couple of decades, and this is almost glossed over—which from a vampiric point of view is understandable but perhaps needed a more definite signposting for mortal readers but this is a very minor point and probably had much to do with the fact that the first part of the book was, I assumed, contemporary but was, in actuality, a little further back in time and so when we jumped forward it jarred just a little.
The story itself sees the vampires in crisis as a new burning—using the gift of psychokinesis to kill younger vampires—rips through the world as ancient are convinced to attack by a disembodied voice.
The book takes themes such as the Talamasca and gives the reader new knowledge about the secret society and its origins and also looks into Amel—the spirit being that possessed/animated the Queen of the Damned, Akasha, and so created vampirism.
In some respects the finale lacked perhaps some of the substance that graced the majority of the book but Rice had also changed gears, as it were, and the prose moved with such speed that it mattered less than it might. However this was possibly also the problem one has when writing about beings so powerful.
However, this should not be taken too negatively as to me this is the finest of the Vampire Chronicles since Blood and Gold and, as intimated, stands close to the original trio of books. 8 out of 10 and recommended.
Prince Lestat is published by Alfred A. Knopf and will be released in the US on October 28. It will be published by Chatto & Windus in the UK and released on October 30. The US hardback is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Random House. The UK hardback is available through Amazon.co.uk. See its publisher listing for more retailers. Visit the novel’s page on Anne Rice’s website for more information.
Andy Boylan writes movie/book review blog, Taliesin Meets the Vampires, and has dabbled with fiction, too—his novel, Concilium Sanguinarius (2008), is available through Amazon.
I think Rice is a good writer, her writing has moments of great beauty, and I think Master of Rampling gate is great short story, but I find her stories often a bit dull. Good writer, boring story teller. Well, at least she is much better than Stephen King…
Better than Stephen King? No way! “Salem’s Lot” is one of the greatest vampire stories ever written!
Salem´s Lot has effective use of vampire lore, but sleazy and boring human characters take again too much time.
Excellent review Andy! I love Anne Rice and Stephen King, but to me they are two totally different animals. Whenever I read Stephen King I get so engrossed in his novels I can’t put them down. I remember reading Under the Dome and Needful Things a couple of my favorites. Not about vampires, but his writing just pulls me in so I can’t put the book down until I finish it. His writing to me is more like being a spectator watching the chaos unfold. Anne’s writing is more like being a part of the story. Her books triggered my love of vampires because of the ambiance she creates and the characters you get to know and love. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. I love them both equally, but for different reasons.
Thanks for the comments guys… I actually really rate Salem’s Lot, those characters might be sleazy (and nowt wrong with a bit of sleaze) but it is the minutiae of the town that makes the horror more palpable… that said I have to admit that I am not the biggest King fan generally and hated Doctor Sleep so much I just gave up part way through it.
I just finished Prince Lestat last night and agree, although not perfect, it was a strong entry in the Vampire Chronicles and reminded me just why I fell in love with the first three books of the series. I actually rather liked both Merrick and Blackwood Farm, but admittedly less because of the plots and more because I’ve always enjoyed Rice’s portraits of New Orleans and Louisiana. Of the two, I agree, Blackwood Farm was the stronger.
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