(2018) Anne Rice, Vintage, £20, hrdbk, 256pp, ISBN 978-1-78-74205-8
From his meticulously restored ancestral château high up in the mountains of France, Prince Lestat grapples to instil his new ideology of peace and harmony among the blood-drinking community. But one night he awakes to news of a ruthless attacks and learns of several new enemies who are intent on disrupting his reign…
There have always been “good” vampires throughout horror fiction, and by “good” I mean strong, powerful, sometimes ruthless evil vampires, starting, I suppose with Dracula. At the end of the twentieth century we were blessed by various series of books featuring these strong vampire characters. We had Nancy Collins books featuring Sonja Blue; we had another series by the late, great Les Daniels featuring Don Sebastian de Villanueva, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s books set in various time periods featuring the Comte de Saint-Germain. Yarbro often includes the word “blood” in her titles and I was sure this latest title by Anne Rice had been used before, but, no, Yarbro’s novel was called Communion Blood. All of the above are great vampires, and then there is Lestat, memorably brought to unlife in Rice’s 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, seemingly written in a near fever-pitch after the death of her daughter. Blood Communion is the eleventh in the series of books under the heading 'The Vampire Chronicles', if you exclude her novels Pandora and Vittorio the Vampire. There was a nine year gap between Interview and the next novel The Vampire Lestat and three years before The Queen of the Dammed appeared, but Rice brought out five more books in the series in a nine year period and then all went quiet until 2014’s Prince Lestat, followed two years later by Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis and now after another two years we have Blood Communion.
And what do we get in Blood Communion? Well, we get Lestat at his talky best, bigging himself in front of his kin, or his people, tribe and family as he prefers to call them. Giving them, and any reader new to the series, a little summary of how he has arrived at this point in his long existence. But as the old saying goes, you can choose your friends but not your family, as ancient vampire Rhoshamandes starts killing off members of Lestat’s vampire court. The vampire prince has to take action and things rush headlong towards a battle between the two. I say “rush headlong” as this is a surprisingly short book in the series at only 256 pages long, with illustrations dotted throughout by Mark Edward Geyer.
The story is told in the first person from Lestat’s point of view, so we never really fear for him given he is the teller of this tale, but then again was anything really serious ever going to happen to him? The shorter length is a problem, as we get flitting glimpses of old characters from previous books, and are introduced to some new characters which hardly get a look-in before they are dispatched, or dropped from the plot. The action also moves between countries taking in France and Russia and America in a tale that is sensual and violent and full of political intrigue and machinations, and suspense and adventure.
As usual with Rice, the writing is sensual and shocking, and hats off to her for giving Lestat a no-nonsense bodyguard called Cyril. Lestat is a prince, a king, a god, or so he thinks, and all is peaceful in his vampire garden of blood-red roses, but is he here more Caligula than Christ? Stay tuned for the next book in the series to find out. If you can’t wait until then, Lestat, who has made two appearances on the big screen in the guise of Tom Cruise and Stuart Townsend, will be appearing on the small screen, thanks to the TV company Hulu, with scripts being written by Rice’s son Christopher. My money is on Vinnie Jones to be cast as Cyril if the TV series ever lasts that long. Meanwhile this is a book for Lestat fans, whose ranks can only swell once the TV series appears. But the better books in the series - with more bite - appeared in the last century. This just feels like treading water, even if it is tinted with blood.
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