(2018) Anne Rice, Chatto & Windus, £20, hrdbk, 254pp, ISBN 978-1-784-74205-8
Lestat de Lioncourt feels like a new character in each book Rice writes about him. In Interview With The Vampire (1976) he is the secretive but passionate mentor, concealing from Louis that there are other vampires in the World and punishing his lover for daring to find his own path.
In The Vampire Lestat (1985) he becomes troubled to learn his own past and ultimately transforms into a hedonistic rock God.
By Blood Communion, he is a more serious, sombre figure, reluctantly running a Camelot style court for all the known vampires on Earth. Much of the book reads like a roll-call register as Rice describes every vampire paying homage and attending the continuous banquets. Major characters from earlier works, including Louis and Gabrielle (Lestat’s mother, herself a vampire) are reduced to cameos amidst a huge cast of predominantly passive characters.
Amidst the interminable introductions there is much foreshadowing of trouble to come. Some of this is set for future novels in the series rather than this one. Some of the vampires want Lestat to build prison cells and dungeons into his French Gothic chateaux, to use as holding tanks for humans to feed on when the vampires do not wish to go out hunting. Lestat sees such a move as a step towards barbarism.
For now, Lestat has two more immediate threats to contend with. A vampire called Baudwin has been attacking Lestat’s New Orleons properties. Baudwin is subdued with anti-climactic ease and held prisoner at the French Chateaux for much of the novel awaiting his rather unsurprising fate.
Rhoshamandes presents a bigger, though rather independent threat to the Prince. There is no thread of connection between the Baudwin and Rhoshamandes stories.
In defiance of a treaty promise to avoid contact with the other vampires, Rhoshamandes makes violent disturbing psychic attacks on them, before launching seemingly unstoppable Grendel style raids on the Chateaux itself, kidnapping Lestat’s allies and friends one by one and defeating all defences, (even wrecking half of the estate) before Lestat takes the battle back to him.
Rhoshamandes is motivated by hostility to Lestat’s association with Atlantians and witches, who Lestat welcomes to his court as if they were vampires too (though they get very little to do in this book). Rhoshamandes is not alone in recognising prophesies in which the Atlanteans ultimately destroy the vampires.
This is all well staged, but the action peaks about half way through the novel which then returns to majestic banqueting and Lestat fearing things might go bad at some future time.
Much of the writing is poetic, and this benefits from being about a third of the length of the earlier Vampire Chronicles in the series. There are also several exquisite Durer style pencil illustrations by Mark Edward Guyer.
It would have been good to hear more of and from the principle players and supporting cast of the previous books, and Lestat is clearly not a wise monarch, too easily swayed by his advisors, friends and circumstances. It is also hard to see how such a vast population of vampires and other supernatural entities could so easily avoid public attention while living and partying so hard at a prime-slice of Parisian real estate.
The violence is extraordinary when it comes. Vampires are not so much staked as totally dismembered and chopped down into pulp. No clean dusty deaths here, but more of the book involves talk and dance than action, blood consumption or fighting for survival. Only the middle third provides that.
See also Ian's review of Blood Communion.
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