I have continued my foray through Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles with Blackwood Farm. In many ways, this was exactly what I was looking for in a vampire novel set in Louisiana. There was a grand mix of both the New Orleans French Quarter and Garden District. Much of the action was set in a grand house at the edge of a mysterious swamp. Within the swamp was a dark and spooky island containing a rotting old house with evidence of an old murder. There were ghosts and magic. What’s more Lestat was back. I only wish we had seen more of him.
Blackwood Farm opens when a young aristocrat, recently turned into a vampire, named Tarquin Blackwood seeks the Vampire Lestat for help. It turns out Tarquin—or Quinn for short—is being plagued by a spirit who has haunted him throughout his life. The problem is that once Quinn became a vampire, the spirit began attacking him, drinking his blood and shows signs of becoming a real danger to Quinn’s family.
Once Quinn has Lestat’s attention, he tells his life story, which takes most of the book. I rather enjoyed Quinn’s story and was happy to follow him through his adventures. My principal complaint is that the vast majority of Anne Rice’s characters are fabulously wealthy and don’t want for anything. It both removed a potential source of dramatic tension and pushed the limits of my suspension of disbelief. Another disappointment in the novel was that while Rice spent a lot of time developing Quinn and letting him tell his tale, she spent very little time on Lestat working with Quinn to solve the novel’s problem. We reach the end of Quinn’s tale and the spirit’s story is resolved in a few short pages.
Despite that criticism, I was delighted to spend time among the street cars of St. Charles Avenue, enter a mansion of New Orleans’s Garden District, and explore the wild swamps around Quinn’s house. All of this felt very true to the Louisiana I’ve visited and it was a pleasure to visit it again with Anne Rice’s characters. It was also nice to see Anne Rice tell an original vampire tale that didn’t rehash events from her other novels. I found many of the new characters quite compelling. Of course there was Tarquin Blackwood, who is tormented by spirits, but there was his Great Aunt Queen who loves cameos and brings in private tutors named Lynelle and Nash to educate Quinn. Blackwood Farm’s staff—Jasmine, Big Ramona, and Cindy the Nurse—all began to feel like family. Rice even introduced us to an interesting new vampire, Petronia. In fact, what made Quinn an interesting addition to Rice’s vampire canon was his rejection of the familiar vampire lifestyle to return to his family and attempt to live as normal a life as possible.
Rice succeeded in immersing me in Quinn’s world and I came away feeling I had made new friends and experienced places I’ve visited in real life even better. In that sense, I felt Blackwood Farm was a truly enjoyable novel. What’s more, Aunt Queen’s obsession with cameos has given me an idea for a project related to my own books that I hope to share in the next edition of the Scarlet Order Journal.
Remember, Lachesis Publishing is having a sale on all their books in September, which include the Scarlet Order vampire novels, which will transport you to Greece, Britain, Constantinople, New Mexico and even Louisiana. Vampires of the Scarlet Order is only 99 cents. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order is half off this month. There are only two more days to take advantage of this sale! Also, I’ll remind you that I’m signing both books along with my steampunk novels Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves next Saturday at COAS Books Downtown in Las Cruces, New Mexico, from 10am until noon. I hope you’ll drop by!