Knopf, 353 pp.
This is the ﬁrst in a new series that gets deeper into the history of Rice’s vampires. I’m torn on this one. It is better than most of the self-indulgent tripe that Ms. Rice has been churning out lately (and it’s under six-hundred pages), but it does still tend to ramble on, as Anne Rice novels are prone to do. For a change, the story doesn’t involve the rather dreary, self-absorbed Lestat. Instead we have Pandora, a 2,000-year-old vampire who is telling her life story. lt focuses mostly on her pre-vampiric life, and her turning. The plot revolves around an attempt to kill the two original vampires (and, thus, all vampires), and Marius’ stewardship of the pair. The title character is drawn into the plot by the Queen of the Damned herself because she had been close friends with Marius when he was still human. Pandora turns out to be one of the more interesting vampires that Rice has created in some time; she has a strong personality and seems to actually enjoy the Dark Gift. Unfortunately, we do have to listen to Marius (if you’re familiar with the series, you’re also familiar with this whiner) bemoaning the vampire’s curse for most of his scenes. In The Vampire Lestat, Rice gave us a character that took great joy in his vampire lifestyle; to the extent of even becoming a rock and roll star. Since then, her characters (Lestat particularly) have become increasingly morose. As a result, l truly enjoyed Pandora’s more enthusiastic attitude. The fact that the book is set amongst the debauchery of the Roman Empire helps as well. The fact that Lestat is in a catatonic coma helps even more. If you like Anne Rice, it doesn’t matter what l say—you’ll read the book anyway (fanatics). If (like me) you’re ambivalent towards her work, you’ll probably enjoy this one more than usual.