This review contains spoilers…
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Twelve years ago, Anne Rice released what fans were told was to be the final instalment in The Vampire Chronicles. It was sweet, charming, brutal, and then, wholly saturated with feeling. The average reader could not strike through the last chapter without crying, Lestat, the brave hero, the intrepid companion, through centuries of his life, through pain, and loss, and deep aching upheaval, was leaving, and as a whole, as a forum, the fans, were powerless to stop him.
But it was not just the loss of Lestat that stung so blindingly. Every character that had walked those pages, every character shining in their moments, or glimmering in the moonlight, or being forgotten as the novels, as the tale, progressed, they were all to go with him. No more dreams of vampires saving the reader in the dark of night, flying one away from mundanity, or heartache, or desperate obsessive love. The fantasy of the vampire legend, the anti-hero in the dark hours of uncertainty and fear, the terrifying figure of romance, lust, and simple, comforting desire, was left to other authors. Authors who, try as they might, could not hope to shine with the grace of Ms Rice, and her infamous hero, Lestat de Lioncourt.
It began with the whispers, the subtle suggestions, and hinting questions, the slow coaxing of these old fans, the truly devoted readers of The Vampire Chronicles, who answered her brashly, honestly, longingly. The People of Anne Rice’s Fan Page rose to the occasion and described every nuance of how, and why they missed Lestat, how badly they have dreamed of reading his words again, and how they desired the return of his companions, the Coven of the Articulate. And the author responded in kind, until the internet was ablaze with hints of a new Chronicle before the news was ever officially released. But… This in no way diminished the shock and awe when it did.
Prince Lestat is a wild escape into a world that readers had almost forgotten, shelved, and locked away, for fear of clinging too tightly to those old lovers, friends, dark companions. The novel delves into a vampire world in chaos, a fine reflection of the readers’ reality. Vampires all over this world cry for Lestat, as fans have done, for over a decade, but the hero is inexplicably absent, hiding from their voices. And the louder the wails become, the deeper into shadow and obscurity, this beloved lionhearted hero and others of his ilk move. Key characters have become pivotal in this new vampire world, characters that understand and whisk technology in ways the old ones cannot conceive. Benji broadcasts his specific message to young vampires globally, and he speaks of a “parentless tribe” in the midst of anarchy and a Burning. Another Voice, an insidious Voice, whispers to the young and old alike, and tells them to destroy, to claim dominion, and weed out the young, the numerous, the riffraff of vampire kind.
In the ilk of Queen of the Damned, Rice’s previous confederacy-esque novel, Prince Lestat spreads its tale between all characters, all experiences are documented, with the third person voice, Lestat, of course, carrying the mantel of the first person voice. And in this manner, she shines a light on the dark grottos where beloved protagonists lurk, as well as introducing a veritable realm of new players that weave themselves into the tales of what the reader already knows, and what has yet to be revealed. Numerous ancients, Teshkamen, Seth, Nebamun, and others, surface to assist their brethren, to “re-parent” the tribe, as it were. And then younger vampires, some familiar, some entirely not so, such as Fareed, exemplify ideals towards a furthering in the collective vampire understanding of technology and science. In order to better understand themselves. The intention being to eradicate the old perspective that being of the Blood, means to be evil. Defaulted. Done and dusted. This novel carries a new message, that indeed, no, evil can be found in anything, as can good, but it is only through better understanding of oneself, and one’s kind, that one can come to love, and acknowledge both the good and the evil at the core.
There is commentary apparent in this novel, which beautifully weaves a reflection of the author’s own writing of this piece, her interaction with fans, answers to fan inquisition, and even a personal joke that the People of the Page, as Ms Rice affectionately calls her following, will have a good chuckle at. The story of Rose and her Uncle Lestan is of particular intrigue as well, given the human nature (of those who devote themselves to vampire literature), that the vampire is a monster, yes, but also, often, a benevolent guardian, whose keen interest in the mortal subject could end in heartache, or in new, altered perspectives. And, in answer to modern vampire literature, the author has taken a step into science, to allow her vampires who (as far as lore states), could never feel fleshy intimacy the way mortals do, to experience that pleasure, and even create some semblance of life from it.
Through the progression of the tale, it becomes clear that the Voice is none other than Amel. This is not a difficult concept to derive from the start of the piece, however, it is to be expected by any reader of intellect, and it plays so beautifully into the mythos of the author’s universe, that its obvious nature is a charm, rather than a hindrance. Amel is distraught at his imprisonment in the wounded Mekare, and is fighting for release, to find a blood drinker of equal power, but more driven, unique.
The character of this enlivening spirit, is also a matter of interest on the novel as a whole. It must always be remembered, though sometimes it is not so simple, that Amel loved the twins, that he would do anything for them, in fact, did do what he could to avenge them, and that, in a way, he was punished for it, by six thousand near-silent years as a prisoner to those who never quite understood him. As said, it is difficult to try and think of him as anything other than a monster. And even more so when he has an ancient, Roshamandes, brutally kill Maharet, and Khayman. Sweet, gentle Khayman, who he also victimised with the power of his maddening demands.
Prince Lestat also reveals some ground-breaking details about the most intrepid Order of psychic investigators, the Talamasca. Their origins, their intent, and their present designs upon the world of vampires.
At the close, Prince Lestat seeks to revolutionise vampire literature, once again, as Interview with the Vampire sought to and succeeded nearly thirty years ago. The novel is more than successful in this regard, it bursts with life, opportunity, it raises the character of Lestat to heights that one might never expect of a bombastic young nobleman from the French countryside, and it explores the nature of vampirism in a new, enduring light, offering such characters even as the ever self-depreciating Louis, to try and view his own nature through an outside glance, and not through the dark glass of his own self-loathing. The only question the reader can truly ask now, after the deep breaths of revelation and teeming discovery, is, what’s next for Lestat?