In Prince Lestat Anne
Rice returns to the world of her primary protagonist, Lestat de Lioncourt, for the first
time in eleven years. It is a world in crisis as vampires have proliferated and war with
one another. A disincarnate entity called simply the Voice wages a genocidal
campaign against vampire kind, tearing the vampire community apart, even as the undead are
being wiped out.
The frequent criticism directed at Ann Rice is that her prose is florid,
even lush. Of course, this is part of what her readers love about her writing, and what we
expect from her. In Prince Lestat, happily, Rices rich
language has been deftly edited. Hats off to whoever was responsible for this, as the
perfect balance between maintaining Rices voice and keeping the prose smooth has
mostly been struck. There is some truly magnificent writing in this book.
Nevertheless the action does, at times, drag. Perhaps this is inevitable
in a novel that spans centuries and tries to depict a cast of thousands. The reader
endures repetition and lengthy forays into the lives of many characters. Characters who we
might have expected to appear are mysteriously absent. But, on the whole, Rice's
digressions are enjoyable and help build towards the final scenes of the book, so they are
there for a reason. I found I could put my occasional impatience with this
The story pulls you into Lestats world as Rice gracefully suggests a
personality lost in time, by quaint turn of phrase, and bewilderment around technology.
Lestat doesnt listen to an iPod or to his phone but to 80s technology: a
Walkman. He forgets how to email. His concert of choice is either Bon Jovi or classical,
harking back to the characters ancient roots. More recent music never gets
mentioned. However, Rice is careful to discuss both modern phones (iPhones of course!
Vampires dont use Android!) and iPods soon afterwards making it clear that Lestat is
playing catch up and time is winning.
Yet in Tale of the Body Thief Lestat embraced new
technology, such as faxing, eagerly. He learned driving and violin playing without effort
in earlier incarnations. This sudden bumbler previously had a memory that seemed
photographic. Anne Rices writing is superb and her work is crack cocaine in book
form (in case you wondered before now I am a huge fan). But I found myself missing the
Lestat I used to know. The protagonists extraordinary gifts have always been part of
his appeal. An immortal dunce is less interesting to me than the earlier version of Lestat
and I was annoyed by this inconsistency of character building.
This manifests in other characters too. The female characters suffer from
it terribly. The great Maharet sits around sobbing uncontrollably and ponders
suicide-genocide. Jesse, that intrepid former Talamascan who once entered haunted houses
without qualms, is suddenly dependent. The mortal Rose is near continuously carried like a
doll towards the end of the book. Indeed, but for Sevraine and Gabrielle, the women of
this book sometimes had me wishing I could perform spine transplants on fictional
The use of science in the book is sometimes unintentionally hilarious. An
elixir is invented that causes vampires to feel desire and to be able to have sex and the
sole use of it seems to be in the creation of a child for Lestat. The pregnancy is
achieved in a fake room decorated with blue toile wallpaper and old fashioned art, set
behind one way glass, in a modern scientific lab. This is all great fun but the vampires
are not known for a lack of sensuality and I would have thought that should this exist
they would be taking it on a daily basis and making hay.
I could carry on listing quibbles including Rices very meta
character reaction to her writing:
"And the stories in truth amazed (Rose), not only by their complexity
and depth, but by the peculiar dark turns they took, and the chronology they laid out for
the main characters moral development."
But this seems mean spirited when I enjoyed this novel so very much. The
story describes exactly the path the vampire world created by Rice would logically take
and it is a joy to explore its updated topography. As with the best of fantasy we are able
to explore the risks that confront us in our day to day world: the rewards and risks of
oppressive leaders, technology limiting privacy, the boundaries of ethics in science. As
always, with Rice, the book is immensely readable. It seemed to leave the reader well set
up for a further tome even while tying the series together. If you are a Rice fan, a
vampire lover, a lover of fantasy and opulence of any sort you may well find your patience
with Rices quirks rewarded should you take up a copy of this book and sink into the
world of the Vampire Chronicles. I did.