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!

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Blood and Gold

I spent part of my vacation this year in New Orleans. It was my second trip to the Big Easy for the year and I decided this was a good excuse to return to the Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice. Besides, we’re in the home stretch for the publication of her new Prince Lestat and I want to be ready!

BloodAndGold

Blood and Gold is the eighth novel of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. In it, an ancient vampire named Thorne is awaken by the Vampire Lestat’s rock music and the activities that precipitates, including the waking of Akasha, the Queen of the Damned. Thorne seeks the company of another ancient vampire, Marius, who used to tend Akasha and her consort Enkil when they were still and lifeless. Marius then proceeds to tell Thorne his story. As it turns out, none of the novel is set in New Orleans, so although it was fine vacation reading, it wasn’t as topical as some of her other novels.

The part of the novel that did prove quite topical was the scene after the Satanic vampires led by Santino raided Marius’s house in Venice and kidnapped all of his young wards, including the newly made vampire Amadeo, who would later become Armand. I read this scene on my first night back at the observatory where I work. As it turns out, one of the purposes of my vacation trip was to take my daughter to college. Moreover, when I work at the observatory, I’m separated from my family for a week. It’s natural for me to feel quite lonely and I was feeling it even more keenly in the wake of my daughter being further away than normal. So, Marius’s despair hit especially hard, but the fact that he recovered new strength and pushed on gave me hope.

I can see why some readers are frustrated by the later Vampire Chronicles. After all, the tale of Marius is nothing new. We’ve heard much of his story already in The Vampire Lestat and The Vampire Armand. This novel largely fills in the empty spaces those novels didn’t cover. In that sense, I found Blood and Gold artistically interesting. I think there’s validity to exploring stories from another character’s perspective or to see behind the scenes of another story. What’s more, I found the story of Marius’s desolation and recovery plus the resolution of the story with Santino interesting. That said, I did find the final resolution of the novel rushed and wished she’d given a little more space to the last chapter, where we learn how Marius’s story affects Thorne.

Regarding the exploration of things from the perspectives of different characters, another element of this novel I found interesting were the scenes where Marius, Mael, and Avicus travel to Constantinople and meet the alluring vampire Eudoxia. It was fun to see the parallels between Anne Rice’s Constantinople and mine, as presented in Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. Both Draco and Marius are drawn to the Hagia Sophia. While exploring the famous church, Draco meets his own alluring vampire, Alexandra. However, Draco’s meeting has a vastly different outcome.

Dragon's Fall

As I say, we’re in the run-up to the release of Prince Lestat so I expect to proceed on to the next installment of the Vampire Chronicles, Blackwood Farm. It looks like I do get a dose of New Orleans and Louisiana in that novel. September is also the ninth anniversary of my publisher Lachesis Publishing. My novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order is half off all this month at their website. Vampires of the Scarlet Order is only 99 cents! I hope you’ll drop by and spend some time with the Scarlet Order vampires.

Merrick

With Merrick, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles return firmly to New Orleans. As the novel opens, the vampire David Talbot approaches a witch named Merrick Mayfair, requesting that she contact the spirit of the child vampire Claudia, so Louis de Pointe du Lac can attempt to make peace with her.

Merrick

As it turns out, I recently had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans, and this is the book I brought along with me. It was a delight to read the novel while surrounded by the locations described. What’s more, the novel was set in the spring time, so the weather was very much like that described in the novel, with a mix of rain showers and gentle, cool and humid conditions. It was a joy to experience many of the sensations and smells described in the novel as I read it.

As with The Vampire Armand, Merrick only moves the story of the Vampire Chronicles forward a small amount, bringing some sense of closure to the story of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia started in the first book of the series Interview With The Vampire. Most of the novel concerns how Merrick Mayfair was recruited by the Talamasca—an organization looking into the truth behind the supernatural.

When David first meets Merrick, he is human and the Superior General of the Talamasca. Merrick is a troubled child whose mother and sister had just died. She’s being raised by a powerful witch called Great Nananne. The Talamasca adopts Merrick when Great Nananne dies. Merrick takes advantage of the situation to gain knowledge and wealth, which gives her the ability to find out what happened to her mother and sister, as well as travel to Central America where she acquires a powerful, spiritual artifact.

As the story progresses, we learn that Merrick is infatuated with the much-older David. This infatuation is augmented now that he’s in a much younger body with the allure of a vampire. Whereas The Vampire Armand reintroduced us to many of the vampires from the Chronicles, this novel remained focused on Lestat, Louis, David, Claudia, and Merrick.

As with other entries in the Vampire Chronicles, Rice shows prowess with horror itself. Many of the scenes where Merrick summons spirits are genuinely frightening. Anne Rice also shows us that humans with power can frighten even the oldest and most powerful vampires into action.

On reflection, I found this to be my favorite entry in the Vampire Chronicles since the first two novels in the series. It tells a fairly straightforward story and resolves issues left open from those first novels. I think its focus on a few of the vampires strengthened the novel. My perception of the novel is no doubt colored by my enjoyment of reading it in New Orleans, but I don’t think you’d need to wait to make a trip to the Big Easy to delve in.