The twelfth Vampire Chronicle novel upends, once again, the origin story
“In my dreams, I saw a city fall into the sea. I heard the cries of thousands. I saw flames that outshone the lamps of heaven. And all the world was shaken…”
Lestat de Lioncourt is no longer alone.
A strange, otherworldly spirit has resurfaced, taking possession of his body and soul. All-seeing, all-knowing, its voice whispers in his ear, telling the hypnotic tale of Atlantis, the great sea power of ancient times…
Prince Lestat is seduced by the power of this ancient spirit, but is he right to trust it? Why has Lestat, leader of the vampires, been chosen as its bodily host?
And what of Atlantis, the mysterious heaven on earth? Why must the vampires reckon so many millennia later with the terrifying force of this ageless, all-powerful Atalantaya spirit?
It falls to Lestat to discover the truth.
I do love this series. As I have written (so very many times) on the site, I consider Rice’s The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned to be one of my favourite books — I always read them together, so I think of them as one. With each novel, Rice has built on the impressive vampire mythos she’s created. In Prince Lestat, the author took a pretty bold step in developing the mythology: in fact, she pretty much upended everything we’ve come to learn so far. I was surprised, and a little nervous, when I realized that, in Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, the author was going to do it again…
[NB: If you read this review, you will come across some spoilers for past novels in the series.]
Nobody likes it when people start messing with things we have come to love: be it TV or movie adaptations of books, comics and so forth, fans develop very strong attachments. For some (emotionally disturbed) people, messing with the canon can be grounds for anger and dismay. Generally, I believe an author’s intellectual property or artistic creation is theirs to do with as they please. And so, while I was hesitant about the new direction, I was prepared to give Rice the benefit of the doubt — after all, she is the author who created the characters in the first place, and has written many novels I’ve re-read multiple times. Having finished the novel, my feelings are mixed.
This novel is very much about Amel, the spirit that now inhabits Lestat, and is the source of the vampires’ powers and weaknesses. It is so much about Amel, in fact, that there’s a large chunk of the novel in which Lestat and Co. pretty much vanish from the story. This is fair enough — we’re taken back to a time before Akasha took Amel into her body to become the first vampire.
Lestat and the court of vampires has come into unexpected contact with what appears to be a new race of supernatural being. I won’t spoil who they are, but Rice spends some time building their past and identities. It’s maybe drawn out a little longer than necessary, and the more science fictional elements were unexpected (and not entirely to my taste). These new arrivals throw the vampire court into disarray, as they must decide on how best to address this potential new threat or opportunity. It also leads them to a new discovery relating to the nature of Amel.
“Lestat, Amel has lived before. He is not a spirit evolving, he is a spirit with an identity, a personality, nourished in flesh and blood that can be restored to him.”
Rice continues to bring together her various supernatural series — the witches, the ghosts/spirits, the Talamasca are all represented in this novel. Old friends and antagonists return, or are given a new context (thinking, in particular, Memnoch). Rice’s thoughts on religion are discussed, incorporated into the nature of the vampires, ghosts, and so forth. It’s never preachy, and includes just as much skepticism as it does personal belief. For example:
Much of what I saw and heard I couldn’t understand until I came awake in the twentieth century and saw the blessed affluent world of the West in this time, in which people carry enormous cultural burdens from earlier economic periods without even being aware of it. Take for example that hundreds of millions today still subscribe to an authoritarian religion inspired almost entirely by an early Mesopotamian agricultural revolution and the development of the monarchical city state that arose from it and fostered it.
Rice’s prose is, as one can expect, very well composed. It flows brilliantly, and she’s kept some of the extra-emoting to a minimum. This time, it feels more like the exaggerated emotions of the vampires, rather than universal. Her gift for description is still intact, and it’s rare that a scene is not vividly displayed on the page.
If you’re a fan of the series, I’d certainly recommend you give this novel a try. If, however, you didn’t like Prince Lestat, then I think you may finish this slightly disappointed, too. While I was less keen on the aforementioned science fictional elements of the novel, I am eager to see what Rice does with the characters next. I can’t really elaborate on that without ruining the ending and “fix” that the cast comes up with, but I really hope we do get more novels in the series.