(2016) Anne Rice, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, xx +454pp, ISBN 978-0-099-59936-4
Review spoiler alert! Elsewhere you will find my review of Blood Communion, the latest in Anne’s Rice’s Vampire Chronicles which concerns Lestat and the fate of one of the major characters in this book, so perhaps you should read this review first.
This is book ten in Rice’s canon (or book twelve if you include two of her other vampire titles) so not the best place to start. If you are brave enough to take the plunge, then fear not, for while the story is split into different sections, including three major parts, it begins with “A Brief History of the Vampires: Blood Genesis” which is followed by “Blood Argot” which is a glossary of terms to do with vampirism and the taking of blood, and the book ends with “Appendix 1 Characters and Places in the Vampire Chronicles” and “Appendix 2 An Informal Guide to the Vampire Chronicles”.
In this tale, Lestat is now the Prince of the Vampires, and trying to get his kin to change from the old ways and the taking of innocent blood, but he is possessed by a spirit called Amel, which not only possesses him, but has links to all of vampire kind. Amal whispers in his ear and mind and tells him stories of ancient Atlantis, the mighty sea power that disappeared beneath the waves. However, Amel is not the only otherworldly creature in this novel as we encounter the People of the Purpose who have been sent to Earth by the Parents with the mission of destroying mankind and let evolution start again with another dominant species that they can control. However, they are almost vampire-like in their motives as they like to see humans suffer, and decide not to destroy the Earth but to protect it as well as freeing Amel, who is a kindred spirit, or entity from his entwinement with Lestat, but can such a thing be done, and to what cost to Lestat, and his vampire followers?
Before the story starts, we get a “Proem” from the viewpoint of Lestat who has seen the fall of Atlantis in his dreams and tries to get answers from Amel about its significance. It’s fortunate in a way that this novel contains the added extras referring to the back canon because many characters appear, some wearing familiar faces, some not, and there is a heck of a lot of story unfolding here, especially in the first and third parts, and that first part entitled “Spies in the Savage Garden” is told from the viewpoint of several characters over eighteen chapters, and apart from Lestat himself, we see the story unfold through the eyes and mind of Derek, Garekyn, Fareed and crusty, very old, Rhoshamandes, before we move on to Part 2 “Born for Atlantis” where again, we have multiple viewpoints, while in the final part, “The Silver Cord”. it is mainly Lestat who drives the story.
Rice’s prose is always a joy, descriptive and sensual, poetic in places. Her vampires have always been dark, and sexy, and cruel, and followed her own unique take on the vampire kind and not merely been subclones following the rules and behaviour set out long ago by Bram Stoker. Lestat is such a wonderfully fickle character, fluctuating between being the benefactor to his kin, and humanity at large, or being a slave to his vampire desires. However, while the prose is a delight, the plot isn’t in places, becoming bogged down by philosophical debate about the nature of humans and vampires and the ability to possess a soul, and I couldn’t help being reminded of one of my favourite TV series, the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows, which one critic described as being “Halloween five days a week”, which went seriously off the rails when they introduced a storyline about the Leviathans who ruled the earth before mankind when the viewers really wanted more vampire shenanigans and doomed romance. Here the plot just gets bogged down in places when we really want more biting and more action, or at least I do, but die-hard Rice fans and fans of the Vampire Prince will no doubt devour this and slot the finished book neatly into place in their Vampire Chronicles collection.
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