Prince Lestat (Book)
Written by Anne Rice
Published by Knopf
I generally credit two women with instilling a love of horror in me: my mother, Peggy, with whom I spent countless Saturday nights during my formative years watching our local TV station’s “Shock Theater,” featuring all the classic old black & white horror movies (Dracula being my favorite of course), and author Anne Rice, whose The Queen of the Damned I fortuitously picked up in the late 1980’s before heading to Las Vegas for a weekend getaway with friends.
The paperback was nice and thick, and the description on the back promised a sprawling saga about vampires of all things, the perfect poolside distraction for someone who wasn’t into gambling but did have a background of loving all things toothy and blood-sucking. I hadn’t read the first two installments in Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles,” of which QotD was Book #3, but upon scanning the first few pages, I was instantly hooked!
After devouring QotD, I sought out Books #1 and #2, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, branched off to enter the Lives of the Mayfair Witches, and continued on with all of the sequels in both series over the years, figuring along with everyone else (including Rice herself) that we’d seen the last of Lestat in 2003’s Blood Canticle, a rather unsatisfactory end to his illustrious adventures. So imagine my surprise – and excitement – when Rice announced in March of 2014 that there was a new novel on its way entitled Prince Lestat that would be a direct sequel to the first five parts of The Vampire Chronicles – everything through Memnoch the Devil – with a release date of late October of that year.
Needless to say, I and Rice’s legion of fans sought out every detail we could find about Prince Lestat, and my own personal highlight of that investigation was a one-on-one interview with the beloved author during last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, in which she confirmed the new novel is “definitely the most like Queen of the Damned.” Music to my ears! So why, then, is this review two months late? Life, dear reader… life, as it is wont to do, had other plans for my time.
I was able to begin the book the weekend after it was released, immediately encountering so many familiar names and faces (as I perceived them… forget that godawful QotD movie from 2002) and also a plethora of newcomers (comprised of ancient ones, newly made vamps, ghosts!, and even a few mortals), all wrapped up in the comforting cadence and prose of Rice’s writing style. It was thrilling… but nearly overwhelming to keep everything straight. Thankfully there are two appendices at the end that delineate the characters and summarize the previous novels, a huge help to this rather rusty reader. All my favorites (and surely yours as well) were present and accounted for, and even less than halfway through Prince Lestat, several of the newbies had joined them on that list of faves.
Then time became scarce, and I wasn’t able to resume reading until around Thanksgiving. As I picked up the story, more new characters were entering the fray as a mysterious “Voice” continued trying to turn the remaining blood drinkers in the world against each other, drawing out the elders and forcing them to convene and urge Lestat to become their leader. We also learn more about a group of doctors studying the species led by Fareed, himself a member of the undead; get additional background on the warring factions of the Queens Blood (those made by Akasha, including her son, Seth, maker of Fareed) and the First Brood (those made by Khayman, Mekare, and Maharet to oppose Akasha and her troops); meet Rose, a human girl who became Lestat’s ward; and listen in on Benji Mahmoud’s (one of Marius’ fledglings) internet radio show for vamps. Even the startling origins of the Talamasca are revealed!
But something’s missing… and that something is Lestat. He’s relegated to a few chapters here and there in the first two thirds of the book which bears his name. Much like Big G in the new Godzilla remake, the Brat Prince is of course the center of everyone’s conversations and motivations, but he himself is mostly absent. When he does pop in with a chapter written in the first-person (all the others are from the third-person point of view), it’s like enjoying a nice cup of tea while catching up with an old friend. Comfortable, but not extremely compelling.
So when life intervened again to forestall my finishing Prince Lestat, I thought about it often, sitting there on my nightstand, but nothing I’d read thus far was enough of a page-turner to entice me into squeezing it into my hectic pre-holiday schedule. Fortunately, however, that all changed a few days ago when I was able to carve out some time for myself (and my preternatural family) and once and for all wrestle this beast of a book to the ground.
The following passage, one of the first I read upon reconnecting with the story, struck a chord and sticks with me still. Lestat is in the company of a pair of ghosts and several female vampires from his past, reunited with those whom he thought he’d lost.
“I was shaken and at a loss. Indeed, I was overwhelmed when I contemplated how many other reunions and shocks awaited me, but how could I shrink from this? How could I resist it?”
Nor could I resist any longer, and with that, both Lestat and I were off and running toward our destinies… his to be a true prince and mine to finally write this damn elusive review!
The final third of Prince Lestat is everything I’d hoped for… and much more. Early storylines that didn’t make much sense out of context are brought back around, and those new characters I mentioned above become even more fleshed out and integral to the proceedings. There are a few returning regulars who get short shrift (I would have loved more about Daniel, Jesse, and David, for instance), but Lestat is front and center, writing most of the closing chapters and leading the charge against the Voice. The climax is shocking but satisfying; and while it seems to be a “happy” ending, there are enough loose ends and questions still remaining to ensure that when things pick up in the already confirmed sequel, Blood Paradise, it surely won’t stay that way for long. Plus, our dear, sweet Louis gets a special moment all to himself that longtime devotees should find especially rewarding.
It’s hard to write too much more without revealing crucial details that are best left to be discovered by readers, but suffice to say that Rice is back at the top of her game. There’s a rhythm to her writing that I fall instantly in step with, and while some complain her descriptions have a tendency to be excessive, I revel in them. It’s obvious she’s been revitalized by the connection she’s made with her fans via social media, even going so far as to ask on her Facebook page for feedback as to our favorite and least favorite characters. Of the fresh blood, the standouts for me are 6,000-year-old Gregory and the mysterious, ghostly Gremt – we definitely need more of them – and I’m pretty sure Rice didn’t devote two chapters solely to the ancient Cyril (however short they might have been) just to have him disappear on us. I fully expect to see more of this trio, plus many of the others, in Blood Paradise.
So, was Prince Lestat worth the wait, both in terms of how long it took Rice to write it and me to read it? Unhesitatingly, yes! The beginning might not have grabbed me, but the ending certainly did… by the throat and with a more than just a “little drink.” It’s a full-fledged gusher that has set the tone – and the stage – for several more installments, and I for one can’t wait to see what grows next in this Savage Garden that Ms. Rice and her Brat Prince have so lovingly planted.