Anne Rice, |
The Queen of the Damned
(Knopf, 1988; Ballantine, 1989)
The Queen of the Damned is strikingly different in both form and substance from the first two books of The Vampire Chronicles. Several new characters are introduced, a number of truly old vampires we have only heard of up until now become part of the action, and the story is woven together into a mosaic much more wide in scope from what has come before.
This is essentially Lestat's book, but he is not really the focus of the tale; while he narrates his own role in events, much of the book is written in the third person. This, plus the addition of so many new characters and the truly elaborate scope that is covered, makes this novel much less cohesive than the first-person narratives of the first two books. The action is spread out over 6,000 years, from one end of the world to the other, with a lot of mythology and pondering taking the place of the thrilling, energetic action of the earlier novels.
The book begins a week or two before Lestat's legendary rock concert and the ensuing mayhem that erupted outside the auditorium that night. We follow the paths of other vampires in the days prior to this, including Armand and Daniel, the young man from Interview With the Vampire. We also learn that the immolation of vampires that Lestat, Louis and Gabrielle saw that night had actually begun several days earlier, as a number of covens were destroyed by Akasha, the newly awakened Queen of the Damned.
After the story of her awakening is told, the book takes on a somewhat mystical air. Almost all vampires are dreaming of two red-headed young women preparing to feast upon their dead mother, only to be taken prisoner by soldiers while their village is destroyed around them. The true significance of the red-headed twins does not become clear until the final hundred pages of the book, for their tale is an integral part of the story behind vampirism's very existence. We already knew that Enkil and Akasha, ancient rulers of Egypt, were the first vampires. Now, the whole history of the king and queen is revealed, including the curse that accompanied their transformation. Rice goes out of her way to explain the beginning of vampirism in a unique way, although the facts of the matter seem a little too elaborate and far-fetched to me.
The one real weakness I find in the novel is Akasha's agenda. She is not exactly the altruistic type, and her mission to save mankind sounds ingenuous at best. It is also a rather laughable plan; having spent the past 6,000 years in contemplative thought, I would have expected a character of her strength and moxie to have come up with a plan much better than this one. The final conflict, one prefigured for hundreds of pages in the slow unveiling of the Legend of the Twins, ends so quickly I was forced to stop and make sure I hadn't somehow skipped a paragraph or two. Basically, it's all over in one sentence.
Even Lestat is not himself here; I actually enjoyed the stories of the other vampires and the history of the accidental birth of vampirism in Akasha more than I enjoyed the action related first-hand by Lestat.
Certainly, Rice is to be commended for vastly expanding her vampire universe and having her characters deeply examine their lives and their purposes on Earth, but I just could not fully connect with this novel. Still, it is an essential book for Rice fans, as it offers up loads of information about the vampires who roam the world of her creation and explains the very origins of vampirism itself.
by Daniel Jolley