Guest Author - Alice Andersen
Most prolific readers know Anne Rice writes vampire novels. She’s been writing them for years and her titles are classics in the vampire genre. Until this past week, I had not read any of the Anne Rice novels. Because of that, my review of the 1988 novel Queen of the Damned is that of a stand alone volume and not as part of a series (The Vampire Chronicles) or as a comparison to her other works.
Readers often have preconceived ideas of what they’ll find when they pick up a book. Vampires equate to all kinds of horror since they feed off the blood of humans. They are monsters of the worst sort. In Queen of the Damned, Rice turns this idea upside down by presenting the human-like qualities of vampires as she gives them a voice in her writing. Today, it’s common to see vamps with personality but she was one of the first to accomplish it.
Rice goes beyond a simple tale of monsters to bring her own vision of the origins of vampires to life. Not only that, but her vampires are the saviors of humanity. By allowing her characters to have shared dreams of red-headed twins, she successfully blends a variety of well-drawn vampires, each with very distinct personalities, into her tale. The story behind the dream unfolds as the novel weaves expertly back and forth through time and place.
Akasha, Queen of the Damned, has been sleeping for 6,000 years but awoke after hearing the popular music of Lestat calling to her. Lestat is a vampire turned rock star who wrote his own book and became famous earlier in the series. In this volume there are several individual stories woven among the main plot of Akasha waking from her deep sleep. There is the story of Jesse, a human who is descended from the original vampires. Then there is the story of Daniel and that of Baby Jenks, both of whom are new to the vampire world. And there are the old vampires, one who was there at the beginning when the dreams were real but who lost his memory and wandered through the world alone and forgotten.
All of these wonderful characters who Rice personifies with human traits are brought together at the end to prevent Akasha from implementing a plan she devised while she was sleeping. Without going into details, suffice it to say even the oldest vampires feared Akasha and what she was capable of. The evil undead have to work together to save the world as we know it. And they were willing to sacrifice themselves to save humanity.
Many readers have suggested the first two books in the series should be read before reading Queen of the Damned. I disagree with that. This volume is fine as a stand alone novel and a good introduction to the writing of Anne Rice. The book explained Lestat well enough and he was a key character to understanding Akasha. She needed a boy toy and he fit the description perfectly. Anne Rice does have a sensual style of writing as I’ve seen others report, but it isn’t necessarily sexual. She gives vivid descriptions of place and events with short, brief paragraphs. This allows the reader to enjoy the back and forth of time and place without disturbing the flow of the story. There are some bloody, gory scenes but they aren’t made to disgust, only to tell the story. Anne Rice is a master storyteller. Even if you aren’t a horror or vampire fan in general, Queen of the Damned may appeal to you as a well-written mystery/suspense novel.
I purchased this book myself at a used book store and plan on reading more from this author.