‘”Yes, I do wonder. Because I know you. And I know that faith is something which you simply do not have.”’
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Armand
Armand’s tale begins where his impetus to follow faith blindly ends. He has experienced countless instances of devotion to silent, unyielding gods; not always out of true belief, but often out of a need to believe in something. But when he does believe, he believes with a depth and sweetness in a goodness which cannot be identified as anything other than benevolent.
The Vampire Armand is a long-awaited story. The tale of a character that seemed unobtrusive and subtle as the series began, but gradually grew in strength over the audience. As with other, similar scenarios, Armand was introduced in brief in Interview with the Vampire; in The Vampire Lestat, we learnt some of his history to satiate whetted appetites. By the time he resurfaced in Queen of the Damned, we were clamouring for a book from and about him.
Armand’s world is far removed from that of the characters we have seen up to this point. Where their theatrics are darker, brooding, full of the uncertainty of their own goodness, Armand steps out of the light, from brilliant highlights to deep shadows.
Forced into sexual slavery, Armand is rescued from the cruel hands of his masters by Marius de Romanus, who, at once, instils in the broken boy, the image of a deity. Born Andrei, though he cannot remember his name, Marius christens the child in a new image: Amadeo – beloved of God. And, having inadvertently created a mysterious magician of himself in Venice, Marius is integral in the rebirth and reconstitution of Amadeo. It is a matter of offence to most, that Marius uses sexuality, in part, to heal the damage done to Amadeo. But the beauty of it is that it is selfless, pure. Vampires are safe, at least in this regard.
Over the course of his adolescence, Amadeo rediscovers himself as something other than a boy gifted with the divine ability to paint (which, following his trauma at the hands of his capturers, he cannot recall how to do), and becomes the paramour and student of Marius. It does not take him long to see that his master is not human, but far from this deterring him, he forms an unwavering devotion to Marius, and also his brothers. His existence is replete in light and joviality, to swing against the darker Armand that is encountered in the earlier novels.
Thus the reader is apprehensive during these blissful moments in the novel. We understand that there is a tragedy at hand, we’ve heard it in brief, but to hear it directly from the subject’s lips is painfully tantalising.
Amadeo grows to his full potential, along with which comes a precocious nature and a surety of self that assists in creating of him a boy burning with will. Certainly his appearance is indicative of his nature, with his beautiful auburn hair and his impish charm. But this nature leads him to balk against some of the more stubborn aspects of his master. Marius instructs him to go and experience, and experience he does.
Many readers have commented on a sense of gratuitousness in The Vampire Armand, that the character is portrayed as being a lustful terror above the calm menace we’ve seen in him up to this point. But one must come to understand that Armand is a child. As this is a tale of his mortality, it is appropriate for him to behave rambunctiously, seducing English lords, revelling in brothels, and ravishing Bianca, all in the height of his youth. The intention is to display the human in him. Seeing him thusly portrayed gives him depth and contours the reader has not yet been privy to.
Amadeo’s disregard for his English lover, however, results in a poisoned wound and the certainty of his death. But, of course, we know this is not the case. There would be no story if it were. And Marius, who had still been deliberating on what to do with his gift at this juncture, does not hesitate to preserve his child.
“’He has become the world to you as only such a great being can. And you are out of it now and longing to return to it […] And so you have no choice but to leave the wastes that lie outside his light and return to it. You must go home.”’
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Armand
Their existence together as vampires is brief, as we also knew it would be. Marius’s demons come back to haunt him. They burn the palazzo and capture Amadeo, slaughtering his brothers, and killing his master (or so he believes).
He is, once again, reborn to a new devotion, to the Children of Darkness, as Armand.
Certain that his master is dead, and slowly being driven to madness by cruelties inflicted upon him and inflicted on others by him, Armand (as he now knows himself to be) feels the memories of Venice fading. It is almost as if he never left the harsh slavery he recalls before Marius rescued him. But, as awful as it is, it is a force to drive him, to make him forge ahead when he would like nothing more than to fall into the pit inside himself.
When Lestat devastates his coven with simple truth, he is lost again, set adrift. For quite some time thereafter he takes to attaching himself to one individual or another. Lestat, Louis, Daniel; and although the strictures of the Children of Darkness have left him, he continues to appear hollow as if he only exists out of apathy. His cleaving to others is honest and intense, most particularly his relation to Daniel.
The pleasant surprise of The Vampire Armand is the subtle change in the character. The alteration that very few readers notice from start to finish. We read the character as one that must be with others, must have a purpose. And so, one would expect Armand to have no compunctions on travelling with his maker, staying with him, once more attaching himself to Marius. Instead, Armand finds a strange sort of peace in solitude now. He has his mortal companions to rely on, but their existence does not rule him either. He is a wholly different incarnation from the character we met in Interview with the Vampire.
‘”Yes. That is what He was, my brother, and the symbol of all brothers, and that is why He was the Lord, and that is why His core is simple love.”’
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Armand.
Of course the incident with Veronica’s Veil was the hinge to his behaviour. He encountered a relic which should have proven divinity. But instead it led to his final act of true, blind devotion. In the face of the fact that he could have died for no blinding light, Armand becomes a creature of self – finally completely wise after five hundred years.
It is unsurprising therefore, that even though the novel ends bitterly, his little mortal children taken into vampirism by Marius, though he did not want or intend for it, that Armand can come to understand the reasoning. Can interpret it, even in his fury, as a gift.
In an idyllic way, the novel closes at the open. Once again, the Coven of the Articulate has gathered to be still in one another’s company. Even Lestat rises briefly from his strange sleep to join them. And it is these rare moments in Anne Rice’s novels that make the reader feel a twang of bitter joy.