One of my birthday presents this year was a copy of Prince Lestat by Anne Rice. If I hadn’t received it as a present, I would have purchased it anyway. After all, I’ve been spending the year catching up with the Vampire Chronicles so I’d be ready for the latest installment. Overall, I felt Prince Lestat was the strongest entry in the Vampire Chronicles since 1988’s Queen of the Damned. That noted, the book is written such that you could almost skip all the books after Queen of the Damned and read Prince Lestat as volume four of the series if you so desired.
In Prince Lestat a mysterious voice has started speaking to many vampires around the world. It urges the older vampires to destroy the younger ones, effectively culling the species. However, not all of the older vampires are willing to play along. After all, some of them are quite attached to their young, fledgling vampires. The novel is told through many points of view—a technique I particularly enjoy. We are reacquainted with many old friends from the vampire chronicles including the Roman Marius who spent centuries as the keeper of the original vampires, the charismatic ikon painter Armand, and of course Lestat de Lioncourt, who has been at the center of all the books. We meet several new vampires including a physician named Fareed and Gregory, one of the oldest vampires of all, who has learned to adapt and grow through his centuries on Earth. One of my favorite elements of the novel is that we finally learn the origins of the secret order called the Talamasca.
Perhaps my biggest personal disappointment with the novel was that although it’s set in many cities around the world, Anne Rice never takes the time to drop into New Orleans. The novel doesn’t really suffer for this, but I’ve always especially enjoyed Rice’s portrayal of the Big Easy.
What has long made the Vampire Chronicles interesting to me is that they’re less about monsters and more about people who find themselves blessed with immortality and virtual invulnerability at the cost of having to take human lives. Some of them come to terms with this problem by taking the lives of evil doers. Others learn to live by taking the “little drink” from several humans so they can avoid killing them. Prince Lestat tackles those themes head on.
Although the novel isn’t about monsters, it’s not without it’s moments of horror, especially in the climactic scenes. One scene is particularly effective because Rice lets us into the head of the being committing the horrible acts and shows us his revulsion for himself while showing us how helpless he feels to take a different path. A little further on, Rice gives us a scene that is both gut-wrenching and beautiful as one of the vampires chooses to make a poignant sacrifice.
Prince Lestat gave me the opportunity to spend time with the vampires I’ve come to consider old friends and took Lestat on the next major step of his long life journey.
The novel also reminded me of why I’ve written my own vampire novels. The long lives of vampires allow a unique perspective on human events and the way history both repeats itself and yet progresses. I enjoyed wondering what I would do if I were a vampire, which led to the creation of my vampire astronomer, Daniel. I’ve enjoyed wondering what vampires would be like if they existed and asking how they might come about in the first place. Anne Rice’s answer is considerably different than mine, which is one of the reasons I love this genre so much. Different authors can explore those elements and make them their own. I hope you’ll take some time to meet my vampires in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order and Vampires of the Scarlet Order.
This marks the first time since 1994 that I’ve been caught up with the Vampire Chronicles and though I think Prince Lestat would make a fitting conclusion for the series, I find myself wondering if there might be more novels in the future. Of course, looking through the list of her vampire novels, I did bypass her “New Tales of the Vampires”: Pandora and Vittorio the Vampire. Even though they’re billed as a different series, these vampires are of the same “tribe” as all of Rice’s immortals. I guess I better get back to reading.