“The truth is most women are weak, be they mortal or immortal. But when they are strong, they are absolutely unpredictable.”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
Bianca is a small character sketch in the larger canvas that is The Vampire Chronicles. However, her story alters the course of the lives of two pivotal personalities, aiding in shaping the story of Armand, and also, keeping the scholar, Marius, alive and formidable after the tragedy of the burning in Venice.
Bianca Solderini is a woman who, one would expect, should have crumbled as soon as her life began to fall apart. She had all the luxuries of a pampered upbringing. Her family had wealth and comfort, and the blissful ease which comes with a higher-than-working-class existence. But everything smashes to pieces for her when her brothers, who had been caring for her, die, and she is left to the mercies of her kinsmen. Men who, as it turns out, have an utter lack of respect for women, even those of their own line, and care little for the lives of those that stand between them and success.
They threaten her with the life of a beggar – and worse, the promise of death – if she does not do as they demand, and so she becomes their pawn. A harsh black widow, forced to kill nameless men for the protection of her virtue and position. Bianca is unfazed (or so it appears) by the ruthless destruction of lives to maintain her own. By the time Marius discovers her in Venice, she is an acclaimed and adored courtesan, and he instantly becomes fixated on her, imagining her as the very vision of Botticelli’s inspiration.
Bianca is enamoured with Marius, as is every other social sprite in Venice, and graciously accepts his gifts and affection. What Bianca does not realise is that Marius is considering making a project of her, deliberating over preserving her beauty, and he feels secure in this decision, when he perceives her evil with the Mind Gift.
At first he imagines her to be pure, perfect and it causes him to balk at the thought of changing her. But when he uncovers her dirty secret, it almost spurs him on and stops him in one instant. It would seem perfect that she become a vampire were she pure, a clean slate for him to create into a living work of art. A perfect Botticelli creation with an open, divine countenance. But then, when he learns of her ‘evil’ nature the spell is broken; even if she is like him – flawed by the need to take life.
And so, in the midst of his turmoil, Marius finds Amadeo, takes him into his home, and begins the tutelage that he believes should be given to one who is ‘destined’ for the blood. But his mind is never entirely set, and occasionally he dreams of letting Amadeo, in his purity, his innocence, leave as all the other boys have done and will do. Turning back to Bianca as the one chosen to fulfil his purpose of becoming his immortal companion. All to compensate for the loss of his beloved Pandora.
But of course Amadeo falls in love with Bianca as surely as any other man. Perhaps more so because he grows up in her company. She has the mystery of an unattainable woman for a boy who is without a woman’s close influence. It is unsurprising when Amadeo acts on his devotion to Bianca. It is just as unsurprising that she is the one to care for him when he is struck down by his English lover. She stays by his side as he suffers through the fever brought on by a poisoned blade.
Once Amadeo receives the blood, and even before, he, Marius, and Bianca form an exquisite love triangle, in a way. Broken only by Marius’s desire to make Bianca recognise him for what he is. In a fit of fury, Marius seems uncontrollable, though in the controlled manner that he handles all things. Blindly threatening her life and then slaying her kinsmen, the ones that keep her a hostage of blackmail and finance as a lesson to Amadeo, and as the resolution to a promise to her. Surely, even without this act of ‘benevolence,’ Bianca would have cared for Amadeo when his precocious anger with Marius led him to bewitch an unstable man, creating the perfect setting for his death.
“’Oh, how often I’ve seen you cry,’ I said, ‘But not of late, and not so bitterly as you cry for him.’”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
When Santino’s cronies destroy the palazzo, it is to Bianca that a desperately injured Marius turns – telepathically calling to her. Bianca does not even flinch at the sight of him. Her strength of character is perfectly apparent here. At first, when he takes her life, it seems that he has killed her, his body unable to sustain the blood for her, but she becomes a vampire nonetheless, as is his wish, and remains his companion for some time, keeping his secrets of the King and Queen. She is always the gracious hostess, the loving companion. But it is clear, early in their time together, that Marius still pines for the loss of his Pandora.
When he reconnects with Pandora, Bianca finds that her jealousy is more virulent than she imagined, despite insisting that she would never envy Pandora’s place in the heart and soul of Marius. It is when she learns of Marius’s promise to Pandora that he would leave Bianca if Pandora might just stay with him, that she leaves Marius, bitterly, angrily.
“’But that’s the point, you see,’ She said in a low, compassionate voice. ‘I heard the things you said to her. And I’m leaving you.’”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
That is the last we see of her.
There are two conflicting opinions on the existence of Bianca. Armand speaks of having seen her in Paris, chasing her from his territory with an unenthusiastic threat. Marius mentions a female vampire who died at sunrise collecting shells on a beach.
The strongest of implications, however, is that Bianca still lives. She is of too much import in the lives of two vital characters to be gone from the scene.
The truth is, how does one come to terms with such desolation? To lose the boy she cared for to an unknown fate? And to be betrayed by the man she loved as well?
Bianca has always been a woman of masks. She is as strong a woman as Pandora, but in a more subtle fashion. A courtesan on the surface, beautiful, exquisite, and magnificent, carried on the currents of compassion and grace, creating love and lust in all men that she encounters. And a determined, if lonely, girl beneath it all. An outsider to the Chronicles, but with a mallet-like effect on the outcome of two important characters.