What I’ve Read: The Vampire Chronicles vol. 1

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Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice. The first three books of the Vampire Chronicles in one single bound tome. The reason for doing them as one review is simple: they are one big story in three separate books. I don’t view the three as individual works because they have a common theme across all three that tie them together, especially since The Vampire Lestat (the best of the three in my opinion!) ends on a cliffhanger that ends in The Queen of the Damned. This is a re-read for me, but I still love these books to no end.

Brief Summary:

For those living under a rock the last thirty years who either haven’t read or seen the movie Interview with the Vampire (one of two Tom Cruise movies I actually like, and we won’t even mention the atrocity that was Queen of the Damned…) starts the incredible journey of the anti-hero Lestat de Lioncourt, a two hundred year old vampire. IwtV is told in the pov of Louis, Lestat’s fledgling, in present day San Francisco (1970s). Louis tells his story of meeting Lestat and becoming a vampire in the late 1700s and how his tragic life of immortality unfolds. The Vampire Lestat takes the villain of the first book, Lestat, and puts his story front and center. Lestat, tells how he came to be – something he never told to Louis – and how his life was full of heartbreak and history of vampires. It was a turn of events having Lestat as pov and showed how the ancient race of bloodsuckers grew from an evil spirit to the vampire in present day. Now, TVL starts with Lestat coming alive again, and this time wanting to tell his story to the world in order to start a war between the good mortals and the evil vampires. He goes about this by creating a rock star persona. He is set to have a concert to show himself to the world. It is at the concert where he is attacked by others of his kind but is mysteriously saved. Leading into The Queen of the Damned, we learn that Lestat’s music roused the sleeping form of the first vampire. Frozen in a statue form for six thousand years, she comes from her sleep to make examples of the world of mortals, using Lestat as her angel of death. Other old vampires meet and learn the truth of their history and in the end the Queen is defeated.

What works:

First and foremost I must say that the way the books are written are sheer perfection. I personally hate first person point of view. I can’t get into it and have put down countless books because of it. But something about the way Ms. Rice writes, I can’t fathom putting these down. I love the lyric poetry of Louis and Lestat in terms of how they contemplate their long existence. I didn’t feel put off by the first person pov, but instead, actually felt part of their world.

Interview with the Vampire starts off strong and never falters. I love Louis’ melancholy and transformation over the years by Lestat and Claudia. But what truly sets me apart in these stories is the character of Lestat. Lestat, the anti-hero, the brat prince is just such a wonderful literary character that I wish there were more like him. Deep, brooding, funny, over the top, moral, witty, clever, devious, and many other words don’t do him justice. He is such a great character that the reader can’t help but want to know him. He does things that just make sense in the scheme of things. Like he was meant to do them and it is right for it to happen.

The way the vampires are depicted are a brilliant turn from the form at the time Ms. Rice wrote the books. It was all about the victims and vampires were the devil. Well, in these books, the portrayal of the immortal blooddrinkers was such a great turn of heel that more authors began to do so, creating this genre of vampires. These vampires were no longer just demons who sucked the blood of mortals, they were beings with deep thoughts, emotions, and dreams. Even the side characters that were antagonists were deeply flawed, only to see the world of immortality shake them up.

I loved how the “dark gift” was a highly sexualized thing. I always imagined (prior to reading and seeing the movie) that the vampire taking the blood of someone was like a sexual encounter. Yes it was implied in the Dracula movies and whatnot, but these books truly encapsulate how erotic this endeavor was.

Another note on Lestat that truly brings these books alive is the fact that he is an unreliable pov. He goes to great length to tell the reader he loves to act, loves to embellish, loves to add flair. So you never truly know if that is how things “happened” or if it was altered. It also makes the conflicting personalities of IwtV and TVL not truly known or made up. I love that as a reader.

I seriously wish I knew how Ms. Rice was able to create a story like this and tell it in the form of dialogue the entire way through the first book and into the second. In IwtV, Louis is telling his story to the reporter, but ninety percent of the story is Louis talking with brief interludes in the present interview. It is exquisite storytelling. I don’t know how Ms. Rice was able to make the dialogue not only flow well and sound good to the ear, but also to convey all the emotions of the story. Pure perfection.

What doesn’t work:

As can be assumed with a history-style telling, there are sections in all three books that just drag on. Louis and Lestat telling something and they just keep describing their feelings about things did tend to drag sometimes. But this was not enough to make the read a slog.

In The Queen of the Damned, Lestat leaves the pov for shorter third person versions of the days leading to his concert. While it was interesting to see other povs, it distracted by changing the tone of the book. Also, some these sections were too much backstory (I’m thinking Daniel the reporter). I didn’t care for some of the chapters of one off characters like Baby Jenks. Wasn’t necessary in my opinion, seemed like filler to me.

In all, I think The Queen of the Damned could have been better served as added to The Vampire Lestat and been one book. Mentioned above, the addition of other characters was nice, but not needed in my opinion. I think they could have done away with it all and melded the books together. Or at least do a ton more in the third book. I felt like the third book was just somewhat of a tagalong. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but if it didn’t connect directly to TVL, I probably wouldn’t have had the interest.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5.

Because the third book is a bit underwhelming, I can’t give a perfect score. But I will be clear, The Vampire Lestat is one of the best dark fantasy novels written in the last thirty years. Lestat is one of the best protagonists out there and I love reading his story over and over.

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