When I heard Anne Rice was releasing a new vampire novel featuring my all-time favourite character, Lestat de Lioncourt, I got very excited despite myself. I’ve been in love with Anne Rice’s vampire novels since I was a teenager but the last few in the series were so bad, I found myself falling out of love with Ms. Rice. Over a decade later, I found it impossible to ignore the imminent release of Prince Lestat despite my fears it would be a huge disappointment, and I pre-ordered it. For better or for worse, as they say.
Prince Lestat begins with a great big recap of what’s been happening in the vampire world since Queen of the Damned and Memnoch the Devil hit the shelves, with a whole load of terminology explained just in case we’d forgotten. Not likely. I found this to be a less than auspicious beginning and my heart began to sink with disappointment because it really wasn’t holding my interest, however I then realised it was just a longwinded prologue.
The basic premise of the novel is that an entity known as the Voice is encouraging ancient vampires to use their Fire Gift to immolate the younger vampires. No one knows who the Voice really is or why it is so intent on ridding the world of inferior vampires, however the vampires all have one belief in common: only Lestat can save them. The problem is Lestat is still absorbed in his self-pity after what happened to him in Memnoch the Devil and he definitely doesn’t want to be the hero. However, not even Lestat can ignore what’s going on for long and when humans and vampires he cares about are threatened, he is forced to come out of the shadows to confront the Voice.
The story is told from multiple viewpoints, which is both a blessing and a curse, because as fascinating as it is to learn about previously unknown ancients, there are far too many chapters focused away from Lestat and it gets tedious. Rice also employed this method in The Queen of the Damned but that was a far better written book and the chapters dealing with the new voices were better balanced with Lestat’s adventures. In Prince Lestat, these chapters are all stacked together and I grew bored quickly, wondering when Lestat would come back. Anne Rice has always had a bad habit of taking forever to get to the point, but it seems to be getting worse in her later novels.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the plot offers up anything new and if you are an avid Anne Rice fan, then you’ve read it all before in some form or another. The burning of the vampires is practically the same as when Akasha went on her rampage in The Queen of the Damned, focusing on the young vampires who are more defenceless than the older ones. Lestat and his friends are conveniently protected as they have all been drinking the blood of the ancients in some way or another which makes them stronger.
Tucked amongst the vampires are other immortals, mainly spirits who are beginning to excel at taking on human form and there are a few surprises on that score that I won’t reveal. As these spirits make themselves known, the origins of the Talamasca are finally explained, something which I’ve always felt was worthy of a novel on its own, but they are pretty much taking a backseat on this one. There is a great deal of exposition on how these spirits are able to take corporeal form but this has all been explored before, albeit in a slightly different way, in the Mayfair Witches series.
Rice has also introduced a vampire scientist, Fareed, who is conducting all sorts of mysterious experiments on vampires to determine their true nature which means he can do all sorts of things like replacing missing limbs. The science is far too implausible for words and it says a lot when the vampire creation myth actually makes more sense than the ridiculous notion a vampire can be injected to produce semen long enough to make human offspring a possibility. You just know where that’s going, right?
There are so many new characters in this book, there isn’t a whole lot of time to meet our old friends, like Marius, Daniel, Louis, Armand, David and Jesse, who all appear at some point but their input is minimal until they all gather together to deal with the Voice. These characters are more or less how they’ve always been, though Jesse seems to spend most of her time crying, but we don’t get to hear from all of them firsthand. There are just far too many characters to focus on here and I felt a little cheated when the old favourites were pushed into the background.
As for Lestat himself, is he back to his old self? Well, no, however he is much more recognisable than the lacklustre character who appeared in Blood Canticle and he gets stronger as he finds a renewed sense of purpose. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think the old irreverent Lestat we fell in love with in The Vampire Lestat is long gone and has been replaced by a more responsible version. The new Lestat obeys the rules, and while he is still snarky, he’d rather spend time with his loved ones than making them miserable.
I’m left with rather mixed feelings on Prince Lestat, mainly because I was just so happy Anne Rice was writing about her beloved characters once more and couldn’t wait to immerse myself in her vampire world, but there was much about this story to which I couldn’t relate and I miss my glorious anti-hero brat prince.