My lifelong love affair with Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles is rather well-documented.
After two books of alternating points of view--Prince Lestat (2014) and Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis (2016)-- Rice, and Lestat, are back in the newly released Blood Communion. In a first person narrative flouting more dialogue than previous books in the series, the eleventh installment in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles sees the charmingly insufferable vampire continuing more or less the same path he’s been on for the past few centuries: seeking a beautiful respite and fame for his unquenchable ego, and comforting himself with insincere self-flagellation every step of the way. Indeed, told completely from the perspective of The Brat Prince himself, Blood Communion is exactly the sort of epicurean tale you might expect from the vampire who simultaneously laments each of his numerous mistakes while continually ignoring any wisdom that might prevent him from making his next.
It is Lestat de Lioncourt in all his pompous, velvet-cloaked, self-indulgent glory, and we love him—and Rice—for it.
For those of us loyal People of the Page who have tired of worrying how, if, or (for-the-freaking-love-of-Akasha) when Amel’s consciousness might be extracted from Lestat or about the motives of the replimoids (in fact, there is mercifully little mentioned about Kapetria or Amel until the final few pages), this is the story we have been waiting for. Once again, the ever self-absorbed and easily besmitten vampire romances himself through his own panderings, all the way from a superficial infatuation with newcomer Dmitri Fontayne (or Mitka, as he prefers), a former lover of none other than Pandora, who beguiles Lestat with his fragile hands, impressive wardrobe, and well-furnished home (sound familiar?), to the quickly dispatched Baudwin. This latter is ultimately ended by his maker, a newly introduced ancient Gundesanth (Santh), who, as it turns out was a member of the Queen’s blood priesthood and companion of Nebamun (known now as Gregory). Alas, it wouldn’t be fitting for a new addition in the Vampire Chronicles if it didn’t introduce and subsequently forget new characters at lightning speed.
"[blood communion] is Lestat de Lioncourt in all his pompous, velvet-cloaked, self-indulgent glory, and we love him—and Rice—for it."
In an installment that is most reminiscent of The Vampire Lestat (1985), Rice’s latest, lushly-written addition to the Chronicles acts as a sort of bookend to the series Louis kicked off, returning us back to the mortal days of Lestat. It is, also, perhaps the most unabashed love letter from Rice in all her glorious descriptions of Lestat. We revisit some of the most impactful, character-shaping moments of his personal history—Claudia's death, the conversion of Gabrielle, the tryst with Memnoch, et cetera—and see the culmination of these moments arrived as Lestat finally achieves the proper nobility he has desired since his mortal days in his family’s crumbling castle in France.
Though the novel lags in the beginning and feels somewhat rushed toward the end, there are moments of intense action and violence in Blood Communion, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Queen of the Damned. Two such scenes of note involve the ill-fated Rhoshamandes (yes, finally) and his beloved Benedict. It is Lestat himself who cheaply head butts and then rips the former’s head from his ancient body, subsequently ingesting and then vomiting back Rhosh’s eyes. The second gruesome death of note (although it happens prior to Rhosh’s) is when poor Benedict terminates his own immortality (shortly after delivering Lestat an actual throne) in a gory exit that makes the stage scene of the young French woman in the Théâtre des Vampires look positively G-rated.
Of course, Rhosh’s eventual demise has been long awaited, and Lestat honors though does not participate in Benedict’s. However, if you’ve ever expected The Brat Prince to actually face consequences—from condemning poor Claudia to short-lived immortality, to destroying the Théâtre des Vampires (something over which Armand is still deliciously bitter), to teaming up (albeit-temporarily) with the blood queen Akasha, to continually and incessantly ignoring the insight and caution of Louis, Armand, Marius or any of the other blood drinkers Lestat clams to love yet never actually shows any affection—or to perhaps grow into the maturity of a centuries-old vampire, it isn’t happening here. Not even and perhaps especially not know that he enjoys the role of crowned Prince, a position he ceaselessly wrings his hands over (and which is constantly reinforced by vampires who, after Akasha, might know better!). Instead, any maturity we might find in Lestat is tempered by his own grandiose musings as he comforts himself with his progress in establishing the court, hosts decadent balls and ceremonies, restores his ancestral home—Chateau de Lioncourt—and the surrounding village, considers and then bestows the Dark Gift to his lead architect, and still manages to come out of yet another challenge to his dominance not only the winner, but somehow improved. He is, for better or worse, the same bratty blond vampire he has always been—just maybe a little less repentant about it.
But then so are the rest of the vampires. The always-dramatic Armand. The ever-inconsolable Louis. The incessantly-brooding Marius. Gabrielle, who remains as elusive and temporal as Pandora. But perhaps therein is Rice’s subtle nod to a simple truth—the suggestion that despite all its flaws and all its imperfections, that no matter how long removed from the realm of the living, no matter how well preserved in velvet and beautiful immortality, the human condition persists within us all.
Blood Communion is the necessary next step of the Court as we have come to know and love them, and it is Lestat de Lioncourt as we simply can’t live without him.
All hail Prince Lestat!