“You make me miserable. You really do, I want you to know that. Much as I love you, much as I need you, much as I can’t exist without you, you make me miserable.”
– Anne Rice, Blood Canticle
Blood Canticle is the final novel in The Vampire Chronicles series. It concludes Lestat’s quest for Goodness as he discovers that the Good – which he seeks in everything, from religion to the actions of mortals and immortals alike – is apparent in his own mind, his own actions, in his capability to be inherently good, if the stakes are high enough.
Lestat believes himself to be evil; that is clear from his first nights as a vampire in The Vampire Lestat, as he contemplates that he must be a thing cast aside from God. That taking life is an abhorrent nature fit only for an abhorrent creature. That God could never abide the existence of such a thing. Or, at the very least, not acknowledge the presence of it. He curses and challenges God, trying to call out a smiting from the heavens, but it never comes. And, believing himself to be a thing of evil, as much as he protests this own self-actualisation, Lestat makes himself evil, by behaving in a manner he thinks an evil thing should behave.
This is Lestat’s modus operandi through the entirety of The Vampire Chronicles series, to be on the verge of doing something good and then thwarting it with an act of evil, something that will remind him in nights to come that he is damned.
For all his negations of the fact, Lestat never speaks of what he is with anything other than at least a hint of distaste, malice almost, but when the reader enters the realm of Blood Canticle, the hero of the piece allows his blood to speak to him. He revels in being what he is, clearly, without conscience, for the first time. Whilst simultaneously being keenly aware that he is a thing of evil.
Blood Canticle opens with Lestat’s statement that he wishes to be a saint, that he desires Goodness, that he does not want to be evil anymore. He states this quite clearly, if babbled, in a rushing stream of consciousness. A fountain of words that once more sweeps the reader up in his magnificence. He imagines himself being loved, adored, and prayed to. Following this manic diatribe, the novel picks up where its predecessor, Blackwood Farm left off, with Lestat offering the gift of his blood to a dying Mona Mayfair.
“And so the literal dissolves. She drinks and she drinks. And alone I dream, a suicide in a bathtub with streaming wrists, I dream.”
– Anne Rice, Blood Canticle
From these first few lines of the tale itself, the reader is pinned under a vast sea of beautiful imagery. The making of Mona is the most detailed and exquisite moment of the creation of a vampire described in any of the novels, because it follows the fervour of Lestat as he pictures what Mona is now and what she will be when she is changed. He practically tries to destroy himself in her creation in order to give her all of his strength, passing out before the change is complete.
But his idea of Mona does not quite equate with what she is, a raving, tempestuous little genius harbouring the darkness of the Mayfair witches, the loss of her child, one of the Taltos. The mother in her is still very much present, and her love for her daughter, Morrigan, drives her to fits of anger and depression. All this in the upheaval of the Mayfair family, members of which now know instinctively through their gifts that something is wrong with their heiress.
Because of his making of Mona, Lestat is bombarded with a number of influences that tear at his soul, including the ghost of Julien Mayfair, who, being a ghost and thus being mostly irrational in his reasoning, haunts Lestat. Julien’s spirit blames Lestat for what he sees as the death of Mona, because, sensibly, for a ghost, a vampire is the epitome of what is unnatural. It is dead, but it is not tied to the laws of spirit, it is free to be alive, whilst being dead. Of course, Lestat’s approach to ‘thwarting’ Julien is to mock him for his impotence as a ghost, to brazenly laugh in his face for the mistakes he has made, and for being unable to stop the Brat Prince in any action he wishes to take.
A further strain on Lestat’s mind is the presence of Rowan Mayfair, with whom he falls almost instantly in love. She is a constant torture to him, and she is well aware that he is directly responsible for whatever has occurred with Mona. Rowan also finds herself painfully drawn to Lestat, falling as thoroughly in love and lust with him as he is with her; a heart-wrenching situation when one considers the presence of her overwrought, gentle husband Michael, who worships Rowan as if she were his one and only light.
Finally, there is the issue of Mona herself. From the first few nights, it is apparent that Mona and Lestat will never see eye to eye. Both are unbearably hot-headed and Mona is intent on not being bullied, which is a personality trait Lestat fails to see in himself. However it becomes clear that Mona’s grief is the main source of her instability, the thing which drives her entirely to brashness, to acts of stubborn rebellion. She believes herself a grown woman, or a girl that has experienced too much. Their fights very nearly tear the tentative little coven apart, regardless of the affection they feel for one another.
However, Lestat swears to assist her in finding her child, and he is true to his word, enlisting Maharet’s help in locating the little island which the Taltos should inhabit. What they find there is nothing but mayhem, the destruction that humans wreak on anything that lends itself to tranquillity. Morrigan is dead, having been brought to the state by her own children, and only one Taltos is left alive, one that immediately goes into the care of Rowan and Mayfair medical, following a bloody slaughter of the island’s criminals by the trio, Lestat, Quinn, and Mona.
On an evening after the massacre and the rescue of the Taltos, Lestat awakens to find that Quinn and Mona have left him to be received by Maharet. This should be a betrayal, but it is to be expected; it was, without a doubt, something that could not have been avoided. And Lestat has to, once again, cope with the knowledge that he has been abandoned by his children as he sees them. Quinn is as much his pupil as what Mona is.
Having nothing left to lose, Lestat gives himself over to Rowan for a brief time, allowing himself to imagine her as his new companion, allowing himself intimacy with her.
But then he does something uncharacteristic for once. He makes a decision which prevents the loss of yet another loved one, and the ruination of more than one life.
He leaves her.
He tells her to return to Michael and he leaves to be on his own.
“Be gone from me, oh mortals who are pure of heart. Be gone from my thoughts, oh souls that dream great dreams.”
Anne Rice, Blood Canticle
Lestat has done something inherently good. He has cherished Rowan in a manner that, some would say, he has never cherished another. As much as he wanted her in his loneliness, and she wanted him in her infatuation, he did not act on his impulse to have her. He saved her mortality, and the love between her and Michael, and defended Mayfair medical, and the Mayfair family against further grief and disarray.
For centuries Lestat sought out Goodness by acting on selfish, and sometimes evil, impulse. He sought it and he never came to understand that Goodness is not something to be achieved at the foot of an altar, or from the vantage point of a saint.
The blonde hero finally achieved his own semblance of Goodness by thinking of what the domino effect of his actions may be. By choosing to preserve instead of destroy, even if it meant his own loneliness.
This being our Brat Prince, of course, he leaves us with the vague promise that someday he will return as the old charming devil we know him to be. But for now we are charged with the knowledge that the series has ended. Ended with a sorrowful Lestat who finally understands what it means to be Good.