Vittorio the Vampire

I just returned the copy edited version of The Astronomer’s Crypt to my publisher. VittorioTheVampire While working on edits, I like to read good prose, which helps me stay focused on picking the best words possible in a scene. I’ve always enjoyed Anne Rice’s prose, so was delighted to discover the last of her vampire novels that I had not read in my “to read” stack. This was Vittorio the Vampire which was the second of her two “New Tales of the Vampires” series.

Aside from a brief discussion of the Vampire Chronicles in the first chapter, Vittorio the Vampire stands apart from all of Rice’s other vampire novels. Even Pandora, which falls under the “New Tales of the Vampires” series includes events from the more famous “Vampire Chronicles” and Pandora herself is a character in a few of the Chronicles.

Set circa 1450, during the height of Cosimo de Medici’s power in Florence, Vittorio the Vampire tells the story of Vittorio di Raniari, a young nobleman educated in Florence. Vittorio’s father runs afoul a coven of vampires, who rampage through the castle and kill Vittorio’s family. Vittorio himself is spared by a beautiful vampire in the body of a young woman named Ursula.

After burying his family in the castle crypt, Vittorio travels toward Florence when he comes across a town mysteriously free of the sick and the infirm. He soon learns the vampire coven is behind this. The villagers pay a “tribute” of people to keep the vampires away. Ursula finds Vittorio and invites him to meet the coven. Once he arrives at their castle, he finds the village’s old and infirm in coops, stored away for food. The vampires invite Vittorio to join the coven, but he refuses. Instead of killing Vittorio outright, the vampires spare him, thanks to Ursula and he’s taken back to the village.

Because the vampires started to turn Vittorio, he’s not left unaffected. It turns out he now has the gift to see angels. The angels lead Vittorio back to the vampire castle to destroy the monsters. The problem is, Vittorio has become smitten by the beautiful Ursula. I’ll leave my summation there to avoid spoilers, though you can probably guess some of what happens from the book’s title. Even then, as with most good books, the real magic is in the details.

At its core, Vittorio the Vampire is simply the story of how young Vittorio became a vampire, but that description doesn’t really do it justice. It’s also the story of Vittorio and Ursula’s love and how that love story relates to God’s will as articulated by the angels. Although physical immortality is an issue, Vittorio lives in a world where it’s assumed he’ll have spiritual immortality if he follows the angels. So, for him, the choice of becoming a vampire actually becomes a choice of following God and becoming truly immortal or being trapped in a human body forever for the sake of love.

I’m a little sorry there isn’t another Anne Rice vampire novel waiting in the wings. Back in 2014 when Prince Lestat was released, there was some discussion that there might be more Vampire Chronicles. I hope that proves to be true. If not, I know Ms. Rice has many other good novels I haven’t yet sunk my teeth into, plus many other vampire and horror novels by other authors await as well.

As for The Astronomer’s Crypt, I don’t yet have a release date, but I’m told I should see galleys by early September, which is really the final opportunity to review the manuscript before publication. So, it shouldn’t be too long after that before you can read it—I say hopefully!

Pandora

Back when I finished Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat, I promised I’d go back and read the two novels in her “New Tales of the Vampires” series. Pandora This past week, I finally read the first of those, Pandora. Despite being a different series, the vampire Pandora has appeared in several of the Vampire Chronicles including The Vampire Armand, Blood and Gold, and Prince Lestat. This novel is essentially the story of how Pandora became a vampire.

The novel starts out during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Pandora’s father is a senator who gained some power during the reign of Tiberius’s predecessor, Augustus. We meet Pandora herself as a precocious young girl, the sister of several brothers who are making their marks around the world in the Roman army. As a prominent senator, Pandora’s father is surrounded by many admirers and counselors. One of whom is a Kelt named Marius. At ten years old, Pandora so charms Marius that he asks Pandora’s father for permission to marry the young girl. In this case, it’s more scandalous because Marius is a Kelt than because Pandora is only ten. Marius then disappears and Pandora grows up and has two brief marriages that end when she can’t have children. During this time, Pandora begins to follow the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

In the background, the political machinations of Rome continue. Pandora’s father falls out of favor as Sejanus rises to his position as head of the Praetorian Guard. Pandora is sent away for her safety to the distant Roman port of Antioch. Soon after arriving, she finds the plot has architects much closer to home than she suspected and even Antioch might not be far enough away to be safe. What’s more, Pandora begins to dream of drinking blood and a hideous, burnt vampire is lurking around the temple of Isis. The temple priests bring Pandora into their confidence and she’s reunited with Marius, who we now find is a vampire. What’s more, he’s caring for Akasha and Enkil, the original vampires.

I loved the classic BBC series I, Claudius starring Derek Jacoby, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart, and Siàn Phillips. What I really enjoyed about Pandora was its look at the Roman Empire during much of the same time, both in Rome itself and in more distant Antioch. Once Pandora becomes a vampire, Rice gives us a look at Antioch as the city changes through the rise of Christianity and later emperors.

Cover of Dragon's Fall: Bondage

Another compelling element of Pandora was how our protagonist interacts with her slaves. Like many of Anne Rice’s vampire characters, Pandora is wealthy, even in life before she becomes a vampire. She seeks out a refined slave to head her household, one who is well versed in poetry. I found this an interesting counterpoint to the story of my own vampire Alexandra, who starts as a slave and uses her vampire powers to become a successful thief. You can read Alexandra’s story in the novella Bondage. That story is also collected in the novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

Although Pandora bills itself as a “New Tale of the Vampires” it really felt like another entry in the Vampire Chronicles. The only thing that set it apart was that Lestat wasn’t a major character, but even he lurks in the background, unwilling to let Anne Rice, or her readers, forget about him entirely.