Book review: Anne Rice’s “Prince Lestat”

Anyone who’s known me long enough knows that I was a pretty big The Vampire Chronicles reader back in the day. During my sometimes hours-long commute from Pasay to Manila and vice versa, I would have Interview with the Vampire open on my lap, reading it eagerly and feeling a thrill at how intimate these creatures would be with each other. The fact that the main players were both male appealed a lot to me, and the fact that they were so “Woe is me!” appealed to the overdramatic teenager in me.

The next two books that followed built on Interview with the Vampire in ways that I didn’t expect. It’s clear to anyone that The Vampire Lestat is an entirely different creation, and The Queen of the Damned is definitely a high point, with a sprawling history for the Undead all laid out and royal intrigue and machinations that would satisfy any plot-hungry reader.

I was such a fan that I stuck around even as it slowly became apparent that the books were no longer hitting the same high marks that The Queen of the Damned did. I slogged through Pandora, trudged through Blood and Gold, and even convinced myself that Blood Canticle was better than it actually was.

But despite all that, I couldn’t help but feel more than a little excited hearing that announcement that Anne Rice was going back to The Vampire Chronicles, telling another story with Lestat as the main focus and no longer the sideshow that he was in books previous. I’d grabbed a copy as soon as I saw one in my neighbourhood National Book Store, and I began reading it more than a little anxious as to what I would think about it.

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After all, most of Rice’s novels have been hit and miss. I completely skipped the Jesus books, and I thought The Songs of the Seraphim were completely lacking and didn’t really deserve a hardcover release. The Wolf Gift was a return to form, sure, but not enough for me to go out and get myself a physical copy. Where would Prince Lestat end up in this pile?

The answer, thankfully, is pretty much on the side of mostly good. The plot takes a while to take off — we are mostly treated to a recollection of what Lestat has been doing since we last saw him, and it’s pretty much him trudging around the world being a loner. The seeds of discontent are planted early on, though, as it’s revealed that Maharet has cut herself off from the Great Family that had sustained her through millennia and that burnings similar to what happened in The Queen of the Damned have been happening all over the world.

From there, the book takes its cues from The Queen of the Damned, especially in the way it’s structured, and it isn’t such a bad idea. We’re introduced to even more new vampires, some as old as Maharet herself, and they’re fascinating to read about for the most part. The plot never develops the same kind of urgency that The Queen of the Damned had, but it’s got enough of a hook to keep readers moving along through chapter after chapter.

Sure, there are some awkward parts — a paragraph on page 97 is more than a little self-congratulatory — but it’s great to see Rice take her vampires into an entirely different direction in this new book. For the first time in a long time these character don’t feel like they’re set in stone — or marble, if you want an in-universe description — and it’s exciting for a longtime follower to read.

There are also some controversial decisions made, but this time I felt like I understood where Rice was coming from and why she did what she did to certain characters. Maybe I’ve matured as a reader, maybe Rice has gotten her groove back. Or maybe her past few books have been so meh that any upswing in quality looks astounding. Either way, I was with her for most of the book.

By the time I turned the last page, for once I was curious about where she was going to take the story from  here. The possibilities are tantalising, and I’m ready to read any book that picks up where Prince Lestat left off. There may just be life in these stories yet.

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