But you will find a massive host of characters! I said 'new' above in the title, but most of the 'new' characters are not new, but were very minor side characters in previous books in The Vampire Chronicles and have been fleshed out and cleverly weaved into the tapestry of vampire history Anne Rice has created. You'll even see the return of characters you had believed were dead! But to avoid spoilers, that's all I'm saying on that point.
The way Anne Rice weaves together character story lines across millennia is pure genius. In scope, it reminds me of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, but the style of writing and storytelling is quite different. A fair amount of Prince Lestat is written in a kind of narrative summary style, which isn't to everyone's taste, but I actually loved it. It means that when Anne Rice comes out of this style, which she does in action scenes and for most of the dialogue, it gives a fast-paced feel to the reading experience; you kind of know she has purposely upped the ante.
And the story also takes you all across the globe, which is totally fun! And if I haven't mentioned it already, I love this book!
I'm trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but I think it's fair to vaguely mention aspects that are hinted at in the synopsis. The main mystery that drives this novel forward is The Voice--a rambling and rather capricious voice that can enter vampires' minds and is compelling ancient blood drinkers to immolate the younger vampires. Who or what is this Voice? What does it want? Why is it doing what it's doing? I loved the way Anne Rice keeps you guessing; just when you think you know who or what the Voice is for sure, she throws in something else that makes you doubt your theory. I did correctly guess at it quite early on, but I was never really, really certain until close to the reveal. And it always feels nice when you've been given enough clues by the author to figure it out just before the characters do.
Even if you do guess at who or what the Voice is, there are so many other plot twists and revelations in this book that you'll be gasping and muttering to yourself at regular intervals. You'll be discovering more about the Talamasca, a secret order of scholars of the supernatural, who have always intrigued me! The revelations to do with the Talamasca were some of the most exciting points in this book, actually. And, as to be expected, there's also blood and violence and some jaw-dropping deaths!
Anne Rice has very cleverly given the book a modern feel by introducing science into the equation. You'll meet a vampire scientist: a scientist who studies vampires and is indeed a blood drinker himself. And you'll also see modern gadgets and inventions such as iPhones and emails mentioned throughout. One of the young vampires even has his own vampire-only radio show!
You are in for an exciting read that will have you imagining long ago times, far away places, beautiful immortals, yet also have you contemplating deep social, political, and emotional issues as you live inside the head of some truly tragic beings who somehow still find the strength to see the wonder of life all around them.
In fact, that appeared to be one of strongest themes running throughout Prince Lestat: the need to affirm life's intrinsic value, to embrace life, and not only to make the best out of the present moment, but to let go of old conceptions of an evil, damned race of beings and embrace an optimistic future and a new vision of what vampires can be. It's a powerful and modern statement that Anne Rice makes.
Keeping it as vague and spoiler-free as possible, there's a fantastic point in the book where Lestat himself shows an amazing level of empathy when none of the other characters seem able to. He also shows his ability to be brutal and ruthless when he feels he needs to be, but I thought it was a great and modern message to show just how valuable empathy and forgiveness can be. Maybe Lestat's willingness to show forgiveness will backfire in later books, but it still made me think: What is the point of our prison system if we don't really believe people can be reformed and given another chance? People make mistakes. And yes, I believe there should be punishment, but there should also be empathy, a willingness to see the good in others and to educate them into a better way of living. Is there any point of prison at all if the criminal is not allowed to move past their crimes after serving his/her sentence? We might as well return to the death sentence if most believe there is no point. Anyway, I've massively digressed.
Having admitted how much of a fanboy I am, I'm not without my complaints about Prince Lestat. And, from frequently visiting Anne Rice's Facebook page, I know that she is very open to receiving readers' opinions on her work--whether positive, negative, neutral, or whatevz, Trevz--and is also extremely respectful of her readers' opinions.
And so here is the main thing that bugged me about this book and has bugged me about many of Anne's books (although, in perspective, it is actually a rather minor issue):
I would really like to see more obviously intelligent characters who aren't romantics, or so poetic, or massive fans of long-dead musicians, painters, poets, architects (and so on) whose names I can't even bring to mind right now because most people my age aren't really all that interested in them.
This is more of a personal annoyance for me. I understand that many immortals, especially the older ones, would have genuine interests in these type of things. But at times it almost seems that Anne Rice uses it as a mark of intelligence. It wasn't until around 30% into the book that characters started appearing who were portrayed as intelligent yet weren't prone to passionate ponderings (I'm not sure if 'pondering' can be used as a noun like that, but oh well--I like it!) of art and music from other centuries and all of rather sophisticated taste.
Anne Rice's books show diversity in so many other areas--sexuality, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and so on--and so I'd just like to see more diversity in this respect. Especially among the young vampires. Maybe this says more of my social group than of anything else, but I don't know many people my age who really care about or could properly identify many, if any, of the musicians, poets, philosophers (and so on) that are mentioned in Prince Lestat from multiple characters' perspectives.
The only other complaint is very minor too, at least for me. A lot of plot information was repeated within the book itself. I didn't mind, and actually quite appreciated, the recaps of events from the previous Vampire Chronicles. But then I began to notice that a fair amount of it was re-repeated (am I making up words again?!). Anyway. A minor issue for me, as on some level I believe repetition can actually reinforce the plot and your connection to it. If overdone, though, it can irritate and push you away.
A WARNING AND A NOTE ABOUT AMAZON REVIEWS FOR PRINCE LESTAT:
In case you're considering heading over to Amazon.com to look at Prince Lestat, be warned that some reviewers are posting massive spoilers in their reviews and even in the titles of their reviews. Also, try not to be too disconcerted by the way some reviews have been voted unhelpful and some have been voted helpful. The system is gamed. People know that the 'most helpful' reviews float to the top of the reviews, so people who hate the book or the author for whatever reason go out of their way to down-vote positive reviews and up-vote negative reviews, regardless of the quality of the review. So, honest and well-written positive reviews are being pushed down, and negative, inaccurate, and mean-spirited reviews are moving up. Of course, there are fair and well-written reviews on both sides of the fence, but if you look at the votes, you'll soon see for yourself that some hateful people will vote ANYTHING as 'helpful' in an attempt to get at the author.
Right, let's wrap this up with the positives:
If you've always been intrigued by the Talamasca and want to know more about them, Prince Lestat is for you!
If you like sexy vampires and witches and spirits, Prince Lestat is for you!
If you like blood and gore and fascinating descriptions of vampire cosmology and ponderings on how science and magic meet each other, Prince Lestat is for you!
If you like stories with shed loads of characters, Prince Lestat is for you!
If you like beautifully poetic descriptions of EVERYTHING, Prince Lestat is definitely for you!!!
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And if you're wondering what star rating I would give Prince Lestat, it would be a 5! I'm not really that into star ratings; I'm more of an 'I LOVED IT!' or 'It wasn't really for me,' type of guy. And if a book wasn't really for me, I don't usually rate it.
Thank you for reading this review of Anne Rice's Prince Lestat!