So, I finally finished my re-read of Anne Rice’s Queen Of The Damned, my first foray back into the novel in many, many years. I was wondering if I was going to enjoy it as much as I remembered – would I find the story as compelling as I did the first time I read it? Would I be drawn into Rice’s dark world as easily as I was as a teenager?
I first read The Queen of the Damned as a weird little fourteen-year-old. I borrowed it from the library, lapping it up and returning it regretfully. Then, when I finally got my very first job (slinging fried chicken), I bought it from the local bookstore with my very first pay. I loved the myth and legend, the action, the sexuality mingled with the bloodlust – I was a strange kid, yeah? (And I grew into a strange adult…)
I needn’t have worried that the novel would be diminished over time. The book was all I remembered. In fact, now I’m older I actually was able to see further into it, to grasp the plight and folly and intricacies of Akasha’s mad vision, Lestat’s unrepentant selfishness, the aeons-long-sufferance of Maharet with her steady, unfailing gaze down through the millennia, the longing of Jessie and Daniel to possess the immortality possessed by those they love.
So for the ultimate brief run-down of the story, Lestat is a rock-star-vampire-dude and Akasha is the ancient mother-queen-source of all vampires who awakens from a millennia-long slumber. She sweeps up the brat-prince Lestat and takes him to help aid her in her plan to rule the world. Killing the majority of the Vampires in existence, she conveniently leaves alive those who Lestat cares for as well as the true ancient ones, who she is unable to kill anyway. These Vampires come together under Maharet, a six-thousand-year-old blood drinker whose past is intricately woven with Akasha’s, as they try to figure how to stop her without killing themselves. Phew!
The real strength of the book is that it diverges from Lestat’s perspective and tells the story from different points of view. We get glimpses into the experience of Daniel, Jessie, Pandora, Maharet, Khayman (oh Khayman, with his simplicity and affable nature though he terrifies all around him with his horrifying age), Maharet and an odd passage from a short-lived rogue-vampire-biker-teen called Baby Jenks. Where as The Vampire Lestat is a chronological story of Lestat, his creation and his experience of the world (excepting a tantalising glimpse into the past of Marius), The Queen of the Damned delves through the deep past to tell the stories of the First Brood, the history of Jessie and her great Family, and the highlight of the book (for me, anyway) which is the Legend of the Twins.
Anne Rice seemed to have reigned in a great deal of her long-windedness (though some will disagree) to tell these stories. Indeed, there is so much going on and so much back-story to reveal that there is little room for the endless waffle and ten-page arguments between characters. And that’s why this is my favourite of the first three Vampire Chronicles – there’s so much action and it takes place in so many different places and so many different times. The narrative is more complex, as opposed to long-winded. Rice’s endless description and wordiness is still there, but it’s at a level that is more tolerable and enjoyable.
It’s always so awesome to re-read a book and to find it as satisfying as you once found it, or even more so. I plan on doing more re-reads (as always) and talking about them here (a new concept) because I have enjoyed the comparison of the experiences then and now. But first I’m moving onto Blood and Gold, another of the Vampire Chronicles and one of the few I haven’t read yet. I’m looking forward to it – it’s the story of Marius, Roman Vampire and long-time guardian of Those Who Must Be Kept, whose tale I have been the most intrigued to read about (besides Maharet’s – though that epic would be nigh-on impossible to write!)
Are you a fan of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles? Read Queen of the Damned? Or have you had a great experience re-reading a book from your youth? Tell me below!