Go put on your finest velvet frock coats, antique lace scarves and cuffs, and pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of your favorite libation, Snarklings. Because it’s time for another visit to the Nocturnal House, and OH! What a visit it will be. Because the Lady of the Manners has finally paused in her gleeful dancing around with her beloved cliches and actually gotten around to writing the review:
Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice.
:: The Lady of the Manners hugs her signed first edition once more, sets it on a table, fluffs out her lace cuffs, and then sets aside the third-person frivolity for the rest of the post ::
Let’s make something perfectly clear from the start, Snarklings: I am an unrepentant and unashamed fan of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The first three books (Interview With the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned, in case you’ve been hiding in a crypt since 1976) are something I turn to when I am in need of comfort rereading, and I’ve read every book in the entire Vampire Chronicles family. There are some I don’t plan on rereading again any time in the next few decades (The Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil), and there are some that I consider to be hilariously out-of-character fan-fic (Blood Canticle), but yes. I have read every damn one of them. Which means that when the news broke that Anne Rice was releasing a new Vampire Chronicles book, all about my beloved Brat Prince and with a title of Prince Lestat, my incoherent fangirl geebling was at full volume.
My wary trepidation was not at full volume, but it was there, providing a minor key counterpoint to my exclamations of glee. Because my giddy affection for the Vampire Chronicles doesn’t make me blind to the flaws in the books and, in recent years, Ms. Rice’s work was wildly inconsistent in quality. So while I was excited, I was also aware that I needed to brace myself for disappointment. Or, as I kept saying, “I have a low bar for this. Be better than Blood Canticle, that’s all I ask. PLEASE BE BETTER THAN BLOOD CANTICLE.”
It was, thank goodness. It was delightful, and a quality Anne Rice purple prose vampire experience. There’s red velvet everywhere, and flashing preternatural eyes, antique lace, swooning blood lust, and best of all, Lestat returning to his charming, snarky form. I liveblogged my reading over on Tumblr, with the tag THREAT LEVEL: LESTAT, if you want a taste of my hand-clappy glee over the whole thing.
Be warned: from this point forward, there will be spoilers. SO MANY SPOILERS.
Prince Lestat is quality vampire crackfic. There is no other way to adequately describe it. This is not a book you go into with expectations of subtlety, and if you do, you’d better set aside those expectations within the first chapter, wherein Lestat has been sulking, avoiding all the other vampires for years, and has long mental conversations with a probably-crazy telepathic voice. Oh, and goes to Bon Jovi concerts. Also in the first chapter, he meets a pair of vampire scientists who want Lestat to come back to their lab, let them give him a drug that will “allow him to feel biological erotic desire again”, and then let them take a sperm sample. Which Lestat goes along with, because … it’s Lestat. Why not?
(This is what I mean by quality vampire crackfic.)
The book has a whole cast of vampires and vampire elders (some of whom we’ve never met before), mobs of fledglings with smartphones who act like paparazzi if they spot one of the Elders, ghosts who’ve learned to become corporeal, a disembodied voice determined to convince those Elders to wipe out all the fledglings, and Lestat’s mortal son, raised by vampires, who Lestat doesn’t know exists. (Remember the sperm sample?) Plus the mysterious organization of scholars, the Talamasca (“We watch. And we are always there”), vampires we previously thought were dead, and Rose, a mortal girl who was rescued from an earthquake and adopted by her “Uncle Lestan”. (Rose doesn’t get to see her Uncle Lestan as often as she’d like, but he does write her wonderful letters with black ink on pink paper. Yes, I am choosing to interpret that as a subtle shout-out to me. Of course I am.)
The amount of new and previously-just barely-mentioned characters that show up in Prince Lestat is a bit dizzying, but this time they don’t ALL have lengthy monologues about their history and philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Anne Rice’s meandering character development, but it can get a bit wearing at times. (I’m looking at you, Lasher, Taltos, and Blackwood Farm.) Much to my amazement, the character I expected to have at least two chapters worth of monologues did not hold forth for pages and pages. However, I’m sure the next books — oh yes, the ending of Prince Lestat all but hands over a gilt-edged invitation to more books — will give Amel his chance to Explain All. Which I’m not entirely sure I will care about, but there are also hints of more stories about the corporeal ghosts and the Talamasca, which are things I very much want more of. Plus, of course, more adventures of the Brat Prince of vampires.
Prince Lestat also has delightful gems of snark. Anne Rice has always been good at sharp-edged bitchery gleaming out through the antique lace:
But who am I to police these preternatural nincompoops?
And if you do not know what honor is, then look it up in your online dictionaries and memorize the definition.
But this time around, there’s also a thread of self-aware gentle mockery. For example, perhaps one of my favorite lines in the entire book:
I was down in New Orleans last year and there were so many fake Lestats swaggering around in pirate shirts and cheap boots, you wouldn’t believe it.
The ending to Prince Lestat is right there in the title. For a few chapters I thought there would be a different conclusion (involving Lestat’s mortal son, Victor), but no. Lestat really does become the Prince of Vampirekind, and starts declaring various other vampires to be his Court Composer, the Minister of Vampire Internet Communications, and so on. Along with tasking Marius to create the appropriate ceremony for turning new vampires, with the needed levels of pomp and circumstance. Over on Tumblr I said that Prince Lestat was somehow the cross-over I never knew I wanted between the Vampire Chronicles and Vampire: the Masquerade, and even after a reread, I still hold to that as a semi-accurate description of the book. (Of course, V:tM was … strongly influenced by Anne Rice’s work, but it’s entertaining to see it flow in the other direction, too.)
Do you need to be well-familiar with all of the Vampire Chronicles canon to enjoy Prince Lestat? Actually, no. You’ll need to have read the first three, but having a thorough knowledge of the rest of the tomes isn’t necessary. When events from later books, such as The Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil, or The Vampire Armand, are referenced, there’s enough context given that a casual vampire reader will be able to easily keep up without being bludgeoned with chunks of exposition.
Did the book really need a prefacing glossary titled “Blood Argot”, or an appendix of “Informal Guide to the Vampire Chronicles”? Probably not, but they’re nice extras that add to the details of this long-running vampire soap opera. In the end, I was delighted with Prince Lestat. Is it full of the traditional Anne Rice bombast and cliches? Yes, of course. But that’s part of the charm of the Vampire Chronicles, that they’re part of the modern era of gothic literature canon, full of flickering candlelight, heightened emotions, and creatures that live for centuries, thus having enough time to turn out as badly as their friends and enemies predicted.
In short, I absolutely loved Prince Lestat. I’ve already read it twice since it downloaded to my Kindle and I know I’ll gleefully turn to it when I am stressed, tired, or just in need of self-indulgence.
Okay, other Anne Rice fans, I know you’re out there? Favorite books? Characters? Particularly overwrought moments of literary bombast? Tell everyone all about it in the comments!