Quick Review: BLOOD COMMUNION by Anne Rice (Chatto & Windus/Knopf)

RiceA-VC13-BloodCommunionUKHCLestat ushers in a new era for the world’s undead

From his meticulously restored ancestral chateau high up in the mountains of France, Prince Lestat grapples to instil a new ideology of peace and harmony among the blood-drinking community. Accustomed to welcoming the Undead from far and wide, one night he awakes to news of a ruthless attack by a group of maverick blood-drinkers.

After fleeing to investigate the terror, Lestat learns of several new enemies who despise his rule over the blood-drinking realm, and who are intent on disrupting the harmony he tries so hard to maintain. But is Lestat strong enough to take on such evil alone or will sacrifices have to be made? Will his cry for peace be heard in a world riddled with violence?

If you’ve been following CR for any amount of time, really, you’ll have noticed how much I like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series. The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned are, together, one of my favourite novels (I have to read them together, so they only count as one). In this, Rice’s thirteenth novel in the series, Lestat ushers in a new era for the world’s blood-drinkers as he takes the crown.

Rice has always been a fantastic writer: her prose are, as usual, near-pristine in this novel. As a result, readers will be pulled through the story. I don’t know many other authors who are able to craft such briskly-paced sentenced. The wobbly moments in recent novels (alien Atlanteans, anyone?) were so easily skimmed over because of Rice’s excellent writing and gift for description. The author’s gift for description has, for me, always been one of the things I love most about her novels. In Blood Communion we’re reminded of how otherworldly the vampires are, and how well Rice draws the characters. The vampires are enamoured by beauty and beautiful things, for example, so when Lestat is recounting an attack on an ancient immortal, and the ransacking of his apartment in NOLA, he is momentarily distracted by the now-destroyed, once-beautiful painting Louis gave him.

Despite these familiar strengths, Blood Communion felt strangely… incomplete. At least, that’s how it seemed: there were times when the story seemed to zip by a little too quickly, as if the author hadn’t yet gone back to flesh out certain passages and/or chapters. It’s impossible to write at any length without throwing out major spoilers, but there is one extended incident that is, I think, supposed to filled with tragedy and tension, but for some reason… never was. At no point did I believe that the tragedy had occurred. It was like the portion of the book that should have packed the greatest emotional wallop wasn’t finished. It made the novel feel very off-balanced.

RiceA-VC-BloodCommunionUSHCLestat has always been difficult: he forges his own path, thumbs his nose at convention and generally does whatever the hell he wants to do. (Although, he is settling down, now, it seems.) In Blood Communion, he comes across as dithering and naïve. While his normally-careful and restrained fellow vampires are baying for the blood of an enemy, he stubbornly sticks to his strange new pacifist frame of mind.

“You’ve forgotten,” he said, “that we are by nature killers. No, listen to me. Just listen.” He placed his hand on mine but kept his eyes on the dancers. “You’ve forgotten that what makes us distinct from human beings and always will is that we hunt human beings and we love killing them. You’re trying to make us into darkling angels.”

At times, it was also difficult not to think that Rice was having a little bit of fun at her previous self’s expense. If you’re familiar with other novels in the series, then you will know that there was a period when Rice really leaned in to her vampires’ tendency towards extreme emotions (“I hate you as much as I have ever loved you”). Blood and Gold, her novel about Marius, was overwhelmed by the word “love” and her characters’ endless obsession and infatuation with seemingly everyone. This moment in Blood Communion, as a result, made me chuckle:

“I took an immediate liking to him, Pandora,” I said. “That’s your gift,” she said. “You love everyone.”

“Love,” the overused word; “love,” the most popular word of the twenty-first century.

At another point, there’s maybe a nod-and-wink to how much the mythology has expanded beyond what we learned in the first three novels, when Armand whispers: “And out of the deep darkness of Egypt comes yet another great traveler.” The mythology has grown quite dramatically from the extremely small circle of original vampires — there now seems to have been a whole host of vampires back in the day. Some of the ancients feature a bit more prominently in this novel, and offer up some hitherto unspoken knowledge about the vampires, their powers and also methods for controlling or inhibiting them. There is also an interesting tidbit in the novel that suggests there’s potential for expansion into new territories that have, thus far, been overlooked in the mythology:

Fareed meantime had revised his estimate of our population to three thousand worldwide, but only about two thousand blood drinkers were known to him in person. And we heard tell of blood drinkers in the Far East who had had no contact with the blood drinkers of the West for thousands of years. Nevertheless we used our telepathic powers to keep sending the invitation.

Maybe this is something we’ll get to see in future novels?

So, while Blood Communion moved the overall story ahead in a new and interesting direction, it felt like Rice was in a hurry to get this part of the story over with. Fans of the series will find a lot to like, as certain storylines are brought together and a couple of storylines are brought to an end. I didn’t love this novel as much as I’d hoped to, but despite its slightly rushed-feel and the uneven characterization, I did enjoy it.

I’m looking forward to what Rice writes next.

*

Blood Communion is out now, published by Chatto & Windus in the UK and Knopf in North America.

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