Okay, so – I just finished reading Prince Lestat last night and I might as well say right off the bat that this will contain myriad spoilers, I’m in too deep to keep this in any way impartial and non-biased. It will be biased as all hell, but at least you can be assured that I’m very well-versed in the series as a whole and will hopefully know what I’m talking about.
There will be a quick summary (prefaced ‘In summary’) of my opinion of the book at the end though, for anyone who might want my opinion on it without being spoiled by reading my rant – I mean review. On we go.
Things start out okay, although there is a fairly annoying (for a fan) summary at the very start and I’ll be honest, having a list of terminology at the beginning of the book threw me off, especially since some of the terms were new and seemed to contradict the nature of the vampires, as I knew them; terms like Blood Wife for instance – since when are Anne’s vampires monogamous or even married? Spouse would have made more sense, if anything, and the guy who uses the term first, Gregory, very obviously is neither straight nor at all monogamous, so I’m baffled as to why he, or any of the others, would need such a term.
Okay, odd intro aside, we get to Lestat. There is no immediate swagger, no description, no hello. It’s not a huge thing, not something I’m going to be shouting about, but it did make the whole thing feel distant. I am used to being talked to fairly directly by Lestat, to feel like he just sat down with me to tell me a new story, but this didn’t do that for me. We are still in the first person-narrative with him, but it somehow feels like the third.
Lestat is out of sorts, so perhaps the low-key feeling isn’t so strange and sure, I can see why he might be in a bit of a mood, even though first-time readers would have no idea and even I, as a long-time reader, have trouble figuring out exactly when the story is supposed to take place. Lestat jumps years back and forth in his own time and when the perspectives of characters like Rose are introduced I found myself losing track of the time and continuity entirely. To make the confusion even greater, there is no mention of any of the events or characters after Memnoch the Devil, but time has still passed enough for the conclusion of the book to be set in 2013. I know Anne has attempted to rectify some things with this new book, and I don’t mind ignoring Merrick, Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle, but I think they should at least be acknowledged, even if Anne herself said they don’t ‘age well’.
So Lestat is pouty and lonely, but doesn’t want to play with his immortal lovers, when he runs into Fareed and Seth, A young scientist-vampire and his ancient maker – uh, sorry - mentor. I was fairly intrigued by those two in the beginning, but could never get a liking for Fareed, despite Lestat’s enthusiasm. I did like Seth though and if the book hadn’t been so overrun by new characters and redcons, maybe we could have heard more about him, the child of Akasha (but not Enkil?) and how his life went.
Lestat agrees to let Fareed make it possible for him to have sex and produce semen, despite what he is and because Lestat is a horny child, he blushes and lets it be known that he doesn’t want to just jerk-off, but would prefer a partner. Luckily just such a partner (a well-paid female doctor with the bizarre name Flannery Gilman) is available. By now my alarm-bells had started chiming, but I didn’t know yet quite what was in store later on. Needless to say it was very awkward and very odd.
It seems to me that Anne is attempting to make all her mysteries, both those of vampires and ghosts, understandable and knowable through science in this book, but firstly that just ends up exposing all the holes which magic and mystery had filled out so nicely before and secondly, she doesn’t do a very good job of getting the reader to buy into this new science-idea, when Lestat spends most of his time responding to it with something along the lines of; ‘well I don’t really have the brains for this, I’m an actual peasant and I regularly forget how computers work, but carry on, doc’.
In that same vein, something that kept bothering me all the way through the book, was that Anne introduces the idea that to kill a vampire – any vampire – you actually just need to sever its head and let it drain of blood, that’s it, you don’t actually need fire. Now, I have two (and a half) problems with this; in Blood and Gold, Mael gets chopped up, his arm is cut off and his head severed. Avicus does do his best to fix the damage, but he does a poor job of it and when he gets to Marius, he is bloody all over, it seems to me that with the speed by which vampires lose their blood, Mael should have been doomed then already. But okay, that was probably just Marius being fast and handy, but then what about Claudia? Armand chopped her head clean off to play Frankenstein with her and Madeleine and although she wasn’t herself, she was still alive, despite body and head being separated. And then there is Lestat. Claudia drained him entirely and nearly cut off his head with that infernal knife, but he still bounced right back – I personally think Anne is cutting it pretty fine here with the decapitation-concept.
And then there is Rose. Let me introduce you to her; she is a dark-haired, blue-eyed tortured child, constantly getting punished for things she hasn’t done and getting involved with people who hurt her and – oh yeah, she’s Lestat’s adopted daughter. Erh, what? Okay, okay, even if I thought he was the type to get involved with a human child’s life on the sidelines like that, how come we know nothing about her? This is Lestat! If he had found a little girl and loved her enough to adopt her, I’m pretty damn sure we would know! Even if we go by the idea that making her known to the world through his books was too dangerous, he could still have mentioned her in passing – you just can’t convince me he wouldn’t.
Other than that she reads awkwardly like a bad fanfic-Mary Sue; ‘what if Lestat adopted a child and she was precious and bookish and only listened to classical music and, uhm, a little rock too –and she was treated badly and he would constantly come save her! Yaaay!’ – the only good thing about Rose’s introduction was Louis returning in a blaze of glory to save her like the mad, beautiful pyromaniac he is, because apparently he parents her too?? Okay. At least she didn’t try to kill any of them.
Another annoying detail I feel needs mentioning is that Anne spends so much time plugging her other books through the gimmick of having the characters mention ‘Lestat’s books’. It’s not like she hasn’t done it before, but this time it just got ridiculous after the fourth ‘casual’ mention. Mary Sue, uh, Rose especially praises the books as deep and profound, which just had me gagging. I mean, I love them, but come on Anne, stop wanking, it’s awkward and I don’t want to watch!
After this we get introduced to a shit-ton of new (and old) characters, some I was happy to see mentioned (such as Avicus, Flavius and the ghost of Raymond Gallant), some intrigued me (like Antoine, the mysterious ‘musician’ from Interview) and some shocked me (the ghosts of Magnus and a boy who I am fairly certain was Riccardo), but the others mostly annoyed me and only gave me a headache in trying to keep track of their various names, alliances and aliases. I will add though, that I like the greater diversity in race and nationality this time around, even if we didn’t have time to know any of the new ones properly.
I loved the little snippets of interaction; the explosive, erotic exchange of blood between David and Lestat was a treat like no other and seeing Gabrielle again was so nice, her cool, no-nonsense attitude was so refreshing and I wish she had spoken more. But oddly, many of the interactions which I hoped for and which were made possible through the myriad of ghosts suddenly able to take flesh, were absent or disappointingly cold. Marius meeting his maker was nothing like I would have thought and though he sent love his way, we never got to read about his reunion with Raymond Gallant – or even with Avicus and Zenobia or Bianca who had all loved him so very much in the past.
Even just interactions between the characters we got told were together were sparse and superficial; like Louis and Armand in New York or Marius and Daniel. I read these books for the interactions, for the intrigues and interpersonal relationships and how they work with beings who are aggressive by nature and immortal, yet so in love with each other. There was precious little of that though, unless of course it was between some new set of blood-drinkers who I was just not invested in and frankly didn’t want to be invested in. The book was even (as usual, I’m tempted to say) mostly over before Louis and Lestat got anywhere near each other.
All these things aside I thought the plot itself was contrived; it felt like a rehash of Queen of the Damned in the way the young ones were being killed off by an unknown force entering the minds of various vampires, much like Mekare’s dreams did, it seemed obvious from the start what the voice was and the fate of Maharet and Khayman is something I will never forgive Anne for, it was an undignified end for characters I have loved and respected for so long – and there was no justice or mourning for them either.
With them out of the way the grand ‘climax’ rolled around, in which the only vaguely interesting part was Lestat chopping off body-parts with a customized battle-axe and swaggering down a table laughing like a maniac. I can work with that, even if the idea of him having a clone/son (the result of the semen-sample which Fareed then grew into a human boy named Viktor, of all things) who is then taken hostage is desperately silly.
I can’t work with what he became later at all though, despite the wonderful little moment with Louis, where he assures him that he is still ‘his Lestat’ and they swap precious love-confessions. I wasn’t convinced. He didn’t feel like himself and the very idea that the entire collective ‘tribe’ of vampires (including Marius, Armand, David and Louis who all know him intimately) would actually want him to rule a damn Monarchy is absolutely crazy! Not to mention that said Monarchy is full of clichés; titles and positions which seem awkward and archaic in the modern setting, as well as rules which seem a recipe for disaster in a vampire-coven. Also, since when does Lestat follow rules?! Sure, he makes them, but if he intends to follow them too, like he says, I really can’t be persuaded that he is still the same.
In summary: reading this book felt like spiralling down into more and more disconnected ravings, all the while seeing plot and people crumble and fall apart around me until I was left with the vaguely nauseous sense that I had been reading a fanfic. There are good spots, Marius’ and Louis’ chapters among them, and if you want to be up to date with where Anne wants to have the series go now, it’s a must- read, simply because so many things change so drastically. I will say that it doesn’t drag, despite the numerous new characters, because so much actually happens and so it is at least a quick read, if a messy, surreal one. And for all its faults, it’s still a better read than Merrick and Blood Canticle.