“The sordid things, things to do with blood and gold.”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
Marius is the eternally paternal figure, a symbol of wisdom and control in a monstrous world which is all about losing control and trying to rein oneself back into some semblance of calm. He has constantly been a mythological character, almost, one that may or may not still exist, as a sign that there is some kind of stillness past all the chaos that being a vampire brings to the fore. At least he is all of that, until he tells his own story, confesses his own secrets, and reveals himself to be made of the same human clay as we all are.
On the day that Blood and Gold appeared in our local Estoril Books, it was as if the universe had conspired to make something beautiful occur. Considering that I was secretly in love with Marius, this novel could not have been better timed nor more perfectly in-tune with the trappings of my imagination at the time.
I devoured the book in one night, in between non-existent sleep and overdue school work. The end result was relatively fated – I both adored and sincerely resented Blood and Gold.
To date, this is my most treasured of any Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles novel. Marius has always been the steadiest character, the one that combines elements that readers worship in any given vampire, with the additional fatherly patience that he exudes when dealing with brat-ish behaviour from Lestat and unreasoned, illogical arguments from Akasha.
But there is an issue that arises out of the creation of a character whose behaviour is as unchanging as the surface of a lake – there must always be some depth beneath the shimmering reflection, some movement to validate certain actions taken. This is not to say that Marius never displayed signs of brash behaviour in previous novels: the incident which stands most firmly at the forefront of my mind as a reader is when Pandora and Santino assist him from the ice in The Queen of the Damned. His volatility in pushing Pandora away seems almost juvenile, unwarranted from the calm figure that Marius is. But his history with Santino would suggest otherwise. Seeing his greatest love and his most hated enemy working together had its negative effects on the man so many readers believe to be devoid of an emotion as debilitating as rage.
And so, Blood and Gold was the beginning of a new Marius, really, one heretofore unseen by the reader. One who sits by a fire with the newly arisen, Thornevald, and details his history with the peace-of-mind that confessing to a stranger promises.
“Why had I been so surprised? Could I not remember my painful quarrels with Pandora? I must know that in anger, Marius is not Marius. I must know and never forget it.”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
An existence as long as Marius’s is bound to be bursting with tales and trappings, but what is clear in this novel is that Marius details each era of his life around the individuals he surrounds himself with. His ‘Perfect Time(s)’ as he refers to them.
It begins, of course, with the first and strongest love of his life, Pandora, and this whirlwind romance colours the entirety of the novel after the two part ways.
For centuries and, eventually, millennia, Marius seeks out Pandora, having brutally abandoned her in his apathetic rage when they were both still relatively young, and dedicates nights upon nights to painting her in various forms. This is the first inkling of Marius’s inability to lay control over the anger he denies in his rationality. Because he refuses to acknowledge the weakness of passion and its place in the downfall of his logic, Marius squashes his emotion until it becomes too much and rolls him, forcing him to actions that he will regret for more time than he would ever believe possible.
It is interesting to note that he devotes time to writing down the behaviour he notes in himself, as the emotions, and the reactions, of his passions. He uses these to refer back to, to make some sense of the spill of emotion he experiences occasionally. But when he loses control (which happens frequently – his mind too overwrought at the things, the people, he loses to time and the ravages of anger) he does away with these, impeding his own progress. If one is to believe that the scribblings in his journals were aiding his momentum, of course.
Marius then falls into some semblance of love again in the days during the fall of Rome. He is revisited by his old captor, Mael – a man he loves to some degree, but cannot see past what he thinks is his hatred for him – and Avicus, Mael’s maker. As the three blood drinkers attempt to come to terms with one another, and the time changing about them, having been forced to Constantinople, they are invited to present themselves to Eudoxia, the ‘vampire empress’ of the city. Eudoxia is Marius’s first warning against making ‘young’ vampires, having been no older than fifteen when she was made, and believing that it is better for a blood drinker to have no connection to his mortal life and weaknesses when he is turned. She demands that Marius take her to Those Who Must Be Kept, as she has drunk the blood of the mother in her youth (or so she claims), and she is older and more powerful than he is.
This is her downfall, she is crushed by the parents, after her disregard of Marius leads him to abandon her to their mercy. This leaves her lover, Zenobia, with him, in his care. Following on from Pandora, Zenobia is another of Marius’s great loves. It is yet another wound in his already miserable unhappiness when he is forced to leave her under the protection of Avicus and Mael.
In Venice, Marius once again experiences a ‘Perfect Time,’ residing in a home reminiscent of the one he thrived in in Rome. He emulates Sandro Botticelli, having fallen in love with the artist (more than simply considering making a blood drinker of the man) and begins painting again in earnest. Simultaneously he opens his home to boys that he intends to make powerful men of, and discovers a woman ‘painted by’ Botticelli in Bianca Solderini, as well as a living angel in the boy he rescues, Amadeo. This time in his long life is entirely perfect, it is lush with human adoration, love, thriving on the discoveries of the renaissance era. And the streets are still riddled with those capable of evil deeds, all in the name of survival. Marius is in love, again, and his happiness seems incapable of ruination, until the old evil that is Santino burns his ‘Perfect Time’ to ashes. All because he was slighted by Marius in Rome.
With the assistance of Bianca and Raymond Gallant of the Talamasca, Marius not only regains his strength, but dedicates two hundred years to this endeavour, intent on eventually destroying Santino, proving his will to Bianca and, most importantly, finding Pandora, who, he later, discovers, frequents Dresden in her travels. For all this time, he keeps to the solitude of the shrine of Those Who Must Be Kept, despite Bianca’s attempts to embolden him, to ‘have somewhere.’ The damage done to him runs far deeper than the scars of the fire. He finds Amadeo, and is bitterly disappointed in what he discovers, he knows he is using Bianca to uncover the whereabouts of Pandora and is ashamed of this, and most of all, he is only now coming to terms with the debilitation of his own anger.
Finally, in Dresden, he is reunited with Pandora, but the reunion is not what he was expecting, he only succeeds in driving her away, not understanding that she cannot live with him as they once did, that she only wanted to find him alive still. In a desperate act he offers to leave Bianca for her, never suspecting that the latter would be listening. In the darkest time of Marius’s existence, things only become blacker as he loses Bianca to his own denial of her as well.
“[…] And when he thought of Santino again, when he looked at the black stain on the stones, he felt a good deep pleasure.”
– Anne Rice, Blood and Gold
The portrayal of Marius, up to this point in the series, was one of a timeless scholar, a constant figure of paternal love and devotion, a man capable of overcoming any anger, only to regain his composure and continue to love his companions unconditionally. Blood and Gold shattered that illusion. It took this infinitely gentle and exceedingly powerful vampire, and granted him human attributes, and with these came elements of a human nature – love, passion, anger, shame, guilt, self-loathing, to name but a few. Marius became a thing of fragility, a man more than just the mysterious silhouette in a darkened room.
As a reader, I adore this novel, it is immaculately written, detailed in its craft, and exquisitely delivered. And I am both saddened and enlightened by the portrayal of Marius as a ‘man.’ I would not have minded regarding him under the bulb of perfection forever, but I also think that his confession was inevitable. I love him all the more for it.
And it was about time that Santino got what was coming to him. It is only a pity that it was not by Marius’s hand.