Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
5 December, 2014
I was hunting, thirsting though I didn’t need to drink, at the mercy of the craving, the deep agonizing lust for heated pumping human blood. … Too hungry for anything else. Give me the heartbeat. Give me the salt. Give me the Viaticum. Fill my mouth.
It’s been 14 years since Anne Rice’s last vampire chronicle, first created in Interview with the Vampire which made her famous and inspired in all her readers a lasting love for her dark and richly gothic mythology. Spanning over 10 books and featuring a vast cast from different historical eras, nevertheless, there is only one vampire that will outshine everyone else: the mad, bad, devil-may-care Lestat de Lioncourt. Born into darkness out of violence, Lestat is a complex figure, at times playful and reckless, often depressed and contrite but also capable of feeling a deep love for his fellow vampires and humans. He seems more vital and vibrant than ordinary humans, seductive and monstrous at the same time. In Prince Lestat, Lestat returns, reluctantly.
There is a new cataclysm afflicting the vampire community: vampires are being destroyed in successive cities from Paris to Rio. It’s mainly the young ones that are immolated by an unknown force bringing back memories of an earlier purge by Akasha in Queen of the Damned. The young vampires, led by Benji Mahmoud, urge the old ones to come out from hiding and lead them in battle against their unknown enemy via Benji’s pirate radio station, a beacon of news. And of the ancients, the one they most need is Lestat. Lestat, who craves solitude and oblivion above all else, ignores it all, until he is sought by fellow vampires Jesse and David Talbot, formerly of the Talamasca. They urge Lestat to help them find Maharet, one of the original ancients created by Akasha herself and whose sister Menkare devoured Akasha’s brain bringing the seed of all vampires into herself and assuming the role of the Queen of the Damned. But Menkare is oblivious to the world, only trusting Maharet and Khayman, their companion of old. Maharet was the guardian of her family tree, keeper of secrets and wisest of the vampires. But now, she is in hiding, receding from the vampire community, anguished. The enemy is penetrating the vampires’ consciousness, speaking to them, urging them to do its bidding, to keep the blood pure. For too many young ones have been created and it feels stretched, unable to control its will. Who exactly is behind this voice? And will Lestat take up his calling and save his kind?
Rice is being very ambitious with her comeback novel. In some ways, it feels like a compendium of all her previous books as references to them are made throughout this one. Almost all of her characters make an appearance, even minor ones, and we finally get to the root of the Talamasca. Unless you have read all her previous vampire novels, Prince Lestat may be difficult to follow. Because there are so many characters, not enough story time is allocated to each one and the characterisation and tale sometimes feel thinly spread. However, as a true fan of the vampire chronicles, this made me want to go back and revisit all of her books, especially the first three novels. Although some of the chapters felt like a summary of all that has gone before, the chapters in which Lestat takes over are the ones that shine the most. Rice has created something special in Lestat’s voice. It is as though the years have tarnished nothing; Lestat sparkles, his wicked sense of humour and style are still intact. The other vampires, apart from Louis and Gabrielle, pale in comparison to Lestat and are too numerous, and all the talk of love and beauty become repetitive after a while.
The addition of modern technology and science may seem inevitable in the course of things, however that brings Rice’s truly original creation in line with other current vampire novels which seems unnecessary. The strength of Rice’s vampires lie in their character which eschews the modern adoration of all things high school and mundane. What makes Lestat and his kin irresistible is precisely that they are not the boy or girl next door, they inhabit the ‘other’, worlds which only come alive in our imagination. And the vampires don’t pretend to be good; they feed on human blood, their morals are askew, for they are monsters afters all. The glossary of terms too, seem unnecessary, we don’t need soundbites such as ‘in the blood’ or ‘of the blood’ to label these characters. We are perfectly aware of who they are. Rice doesn’t need to compete with the new crop of vampire novels that have appeared. Her world is hers and cannot be replicated by others. In an increasingly crowded genre, what she has created is unique and will remain so precisely because of her gorgeous prose and the character of Lestat.
Like me, lovers of Rice’s vampire chronicles will inevitably have very high expectations of her vampire novels just because they love them so much. I’m really looking forward to the next one but feel some trepidation too. However, I’m just over the moon that Rice is writing about vampires again and Prince Lestat has been my most anticipated book of the year. And it looks like I’m not the only one as the novel has won the prize for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror in 2014. Congratulations!
I would like to thank Random House for kindly sending me a copy of Prince Lestat to review.