Six days ago I posted on IG about my reading Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. I skipped Interview with the Vampire, having recently viewed the film with the fiancé, and plowed right in to The Vampire Lestat. I bulldozed through it and didn’t even pause to blink before hitting Queen of the Damned like a wrecking ball. I couldn’t get enough.
I was intrigued. Rice’s ethereal veil of romance and vampiricism completely enveloped me, to my own dismay. I didn’t want to like it so much. Yet.
Then I arrived at the part of the story — spoiler alert! — where Lestat makes his dying mother Gabrielle into a vampire. This disturbed me, the way he waxed romantic about her and took her as a lover–is this true?–and never wanted to be away from her side (it was Gabrielle that abandoned Lestat for the jungles).
But for all his boy-child weeping over the lost teat, Lestat’s tale is fascinating and often philosophical. For example, I could not put the book down when Lestat, Gabrielle, and Nicolas faced Armand and the coven under Les Innocents in Paris:
“You turn to me for explanations?” [Armand] asked [Lestat]…”I could speak until the end of the world,” he said, “and I could never tell you what you have destroyed here…”
“Since the beginning of time,” he said, “these mysteries have existed…Since the ancient days there have been our kind haunting the cities of man, preying on him by night as God and the devil commanded us to do. The chosen of Satan we are, and those admitted to our ranks had first to prove themselves through a hundred crimes before the Dark Gift of immortality was given to them.”
“Before their loved ones they appeared to die,” he said, “and with only a small infusion of our blood did they endure the terror of the coffin as they waited for us to come. Then and only then was the Dark Gift given, and they were sealed again in the grave after, until their thirst should give them the strength to break the narrow box and rise.”
“It was death they knew in those dark chambers,” he said. “It was death and the power of evil they understood as they rose, breaking open the coffin, and the iron doors that held them in. And pity the weak, those who couldn’t break out. Those whose wails brought mortals the day after–for none would answer by night. We gave no mercy to them.”
“But those who rose, ah, those were the vampires who walked the earth, testified, purified, Children of Darkness, born of a fledgling’s blood, never the full power of an ancient master, so that time would bring the wisdom to use the Dark Gifts before they grew truly strong. And on these were imposed the Rules of Darkness. To live among the dead, for we are dead things, returning always to one’s grave or one very nearly like it. To shun the places of light, luring victims away from the company of others to suffer death in unholy and haunted places. And to honor forever the power of God, the crucifix about the neck, the Sacraments. And never never to enter the House of God, lest he strike you powerless, casting you into hell, ending your reign on earth in a blazing torment.”
“It is finished for my children,” [Armand] whispered. “It is finished and done, for they know now that they can disregard all of it. The things that bound us together, gave us the strength to endure as damned things! The mysteries that protected us here.”
“And you ask me for explanations as if it were inexplicable!” he said.
A very believable mythology constructed here by Rice. Her powers of “creating legend,” as her book jackets usually put it, really dazzle here. But not so much as they do when she flexes her mythological muscles in Queen of the Damned.
The epic, delicious tale of Akasha and Enkil, interwoven with the incredible story of Maharet and Mekare, left me utterly spellbound. Yes, let’s all acknowledge that Lestat’s rock stardom is extra cheesy, but Rice more than makes up for it with the final battle between Akasha and the new coven / Mekare. I really enjoyed Marius’s reasoning with Akasha, as well, and listening to Akasha’s bizarre reasoning:
“The men deserve what will happen to them. As a species, they will reap what they have sown. And remember, I speak of a temporary cleansing–a retreat, as it were. It’s the simplicity of it which is beautiful. Collectively the lives of these men do not equal the lives of women who have been killed at the hands of men over the centuries. You know it and I know it. Now, tell me, how many men over the centuries have fallen at the hands of women? If you brought back to life every man slain by a woman, do you think these creatures would fill even this house?”
“But you see these points don’t matter. Again, we know what I say is true. What matters–what is relevant and even more exquisite than the proposition itself–is that we now have the means to make it happen. I am indestructible. You are equipped to be my angels. And there is no one who can oppose us with success.”
“I shall make the rhyme or reason,” Akasha said, with a trace of anger. “I shall make the future; I shall define goodness; I shall define peace. And I don’t call on mythic gods or goddesses or spirits to justify my actions, on abstract morality. I do not call on history either!”
And then, of course, Marius comes back with his little zinger:
“Akasha, for two thousand years I have watched,” he said. “Call me the Roman in the arena if you will and tell me tales of the ages that went before. When I knelt at your feet I begged you for your knowledge. But what I have witnessed in this short span has filled me with awe and love for all things mortal; I have seen revolutions in thought and philosophy which I believed impossible. Is not the human race moving towards the very age of peace you describe?”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but the climax itself–when Mekare shows up and beheads Akasha and then feasts on her brain and heart–seemed rather, well, anticlimactic. Here was this superpower Akasha, “Queen of the Damned” per Mekare’s curse, who claimed indestructibility, and was fearsome with her psychotic plans of massacre simply because of that indestructibility, and then Mekare rises and in one blow takes her out. She didn’t struggle. There was no last cursing breath. It was just over. Hm.
Then I wonder about the culpability of Lestat for the massacres that Akasha already inspired, for the massacre in the temple and on the mountain. He witnessed if not took part in them. He himself murdered man after man. To what extent was he under Akasha’s power?
We’ll see if Lestat gets any comeuppance for his sins. I am starting The Tale of the Body Thief, and I already have Memnoch the Devil lined up after that.