Books are definitely my life. I can pretty much tell you where I was, physically and stage of life, when I read any of the thousands of books I’ve picked up over the years. Some have had way more impact than others.
Ages ago, a friend of mine died… actually, during those years everyone was dying, but this only deals with Donnie. I wasn’t terribly close to him, but I was best friends with his wife. So, when he died, he left me two of his collections: far more ceramic unicorns than any sane person should own and a stack of Anne Rice books. The unicorns are long gone. I can’t even remember how I finally dumped them. The books though, they got me through some seriously difficult times and are tattooed on my brain. By that time, I was living in Baton Rouge and spending a lot of time in New Orleans, so I guess that makes sense.
Like any rabid fan of… well, anything, I had strong opinions about every one of her books. The vampire series grew more esoteric as it progressed and it lost quite a few people–people I obviously looked down on, because ‘they just don’t get it.’ (I was young) The first book of the Mayfair series started out painfully slow, but was so worth wading through. The stand-alones were tough, but that was more because of my expectations than her story-telling. And, the words at the end of Ramses the Damned were a promise that sent waves of happiness through me.
As time went by, I lost hope. The years dragged on with no word that the promise “The Adventures of Ramses the Damned Shall Continue” would ever be fulfilled. Then, any remnant of hope was squashed when she returned to her Catholic faith, declared she wouldn’t write any more vampire books (and it was pretty obvious that immortal Egyptian pharaohs were included in that), and started writing books about angels. I didn’t even bother trying to read those at the time–but I may go back and pick them up just for the hell of it.
Thankfully, that didn’t last. She announced her break with the church because of a particular piece of their doctrine and said that a new Lestat novel was coming. I preordered the instant I could and vibrated with excitement for months while I waited for the all-mighty Amazon to drop a copy in my lap. When it finally came, I took off the second half of my workday so I could start reading… and I couldn’t get into it.
That’s not a comment on her writing, it’s more of a product of a change in my palate. I’m older now, with different tastes, and used to streamlined writing. It was very hard for me to read her writing style with a modern setting. I couldn’t pull my head out of editor mode. So, when I heard that the sequel to Ramses was coming after more than twenty five years of anticipation, I panicked. I was excited, but upset too. What if the same thing happened?
It had been a lifetime since I’d read “Ramses the Damned,” so I picked it up again to prepare. It was just as fantastic as I remembered. Because it is a period piece (early 1900s), her writing style fit perfectly and my critique brain kicked back and let my happy, reading-as-a-fan brain dive in.
That’s when I realized why I’d had trouble with Prince Lestat. She can be wordy and a little repetitive. I’m not used to that anymore. But, for some reason, because of the setting and time, it felt perfectly normal, and the book was just as wonderful as I remembered.
The morning I was plowing through the last few chapters, Amazon dropped “Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra” into my Kindle. I didn’t miss a beat. The second I finished the first one again, I went straight to the second one.
I’ve read reviews that complain about the repetition. But, because I’d just finished the first one, I couldn’t tell what was the necessary recap and what was repetition. And, when the story took off, I didn’t give a damn either way.
She introduced so many things that I hadn’t thought of when I read the first one. (Not a spoiler – it’s laid out in the first scene of the book) Of course Ramses wouldn’t have been the only person to have drunk the elixir – and of course, people who were immortal would still be alive. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of that before. I chalk it up to being so engrossed in the story that I didn’t have time to worry about the implications. And, I’m sure there are other things I’m still missing that can be used for future books — for the love of the gods, please let there be future books — because this one is fast paced and engrossing too.
I keep saying ‘her,’ but Christopher Rice co-authored the book. I’ve read his books as well and can see his touches here and there, but it’s seamless – and an absolute must-read.
If you are, or have ever been, a fan of either of them, definitely pick up this book. It was worth the wait!
Also, on the subject of Christopher Rice… when his book “A Density of Souls” came out, I took the Green Line far out into the Boston burbs to an author event where he did a reading, discussion, and signing. I’ve arranged and hosted hundreds of book signings in my day and rarely bothered to travel to other ones, because they just get old after a while. But, I loved the book and, for some reason, hadn’t even thought to try to book him, so I went.
The crowd was small and he was wonderful. When the Q&A time came, 90% of the questions the audience had were about his mother. I was mortified. The guy had stepped out, written an incredible book, and people were more interested in someone else. If I were hosting the event, I would have politely stepped in and refocused the discussion – but alas… Anyway, he was incredibly gracious about it, probably because he was used to it. But, that made me even more sad. Bottom line–don’t do that!
In closing, pick up the new book – they did a fantastic job of continuing an amazing story.