Review: ‘Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis’ by Anne Rice

Blurb from GoodReads

At the novel’s center: the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, hero, leader, inspirer, irresistible force, irrepressible spirit, battling (and ultimately reconciling with) a strange otherworldly form that has somehow taken possession of Lestat’s undead body and soul. This ancient and mysterious power and unearthly spirit of vampire lore has all the force, history, and insidious reach of the unknowable Universe.

It is through this spirit, previously considered benign for thousands of vampire years and throughout the Vampire Chronicles, that we come to be told the hypnotic tale of a great sea power of ancient times; a mysterious heaven on earth situated on a boundless continent–and of how and why, and in what manner and with what far-reaching purpose, this force came to build and rule the great legendary empire of centuries ago that thrived in the Atlantic Ocean.

And as we learn of the mighty, far-reaching powers and perfections of this lost kingdom of Atalantaya, the lost realms of Atlantis, we come to understand its secrets, and how and why the vampire Lestat, indeed all the vampires, must reckon so many millennia later with the terrifying force of this ageless, all-powerful Atalantaya spirit.

Review: 

Ok, so I should definitely do a disclaimer here: I am already a big fan of Anne Rice’s bestselling (and in some cases, groundbreaking) ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ (TVC) series. Regular readers of this blog will know that I chose Book no. 2: ‘The Vampire Lestat’ as one my top Halloween reads. I have read, in total (and pretty much in order):

Interview with the Vampire

The Vampire Lestat

The Queen of the Damned

The Body Thief (both novel and graphic novel)

The Vampire Armand

Blood and Gold

Pandora

Vittorio the Vampire

Merrick

Phew. Even I have to admit, that’s a heck of a lot- especially when you consider that I read all of these in about a year or so. (When I fangirl for something, I fangirl HARD.) ‘Interview with the Vampire’ (IWTV) and ‘The Vampire Lestat’ (TVL) were seductive, thought-provoking, philosophical and at times  electrifying reads. ‘Queen of the Damned,’ (QOTS) ‘The Vampire Armand’ (TVA) and ‘Blood and Gold’ (BAG) were also enjoyable and I loved how previous characters from the series were also seamlessly integrated. I adored the steamy New Orleans setting, the descriptions, the fashions, the blatant homoerotic elements (LESTAT AND LOUIS=FOREVER) and the dark glamour of it all.

However, for all my fangirling, I did have issues with the series- I could never, ever condone Marius’s seduction of Armand, Armand at that point being a vulnerable child slave- this is not titillating or even fun to read, it’s just child abuse. At first, when they were introduced to me in the previous books, I did like their adult romantic relationship and intimate connection, but that’s only because it was introduced like this earlier in the series, without the element of abuse, so I was really taken aback and blindsided by this later on, and found it really problematic and upsetting to read these scenes later on in the series. Seducing a barely teenage boy who is completely dependent on you is never okay, even if you are a handsome, wealthy, powerful vampire, and live in a Venetian palazzo. Attempting to glamourize such abuse is not okay, either, and I felt as though this was what Rice was doing. Similarly, Armand’s rape of Marius’s courtesan friend, Bianca, left me reeling. It’s set up like a sexy, seductive scene, but it’s not really- it’s about power and control. Armand even calls it a ‘little rape’- but there’s no such thing. It’s just rape. And it’s awful. It also throws into relief how one-dimensional her female characters can often be- apart from Claudia, the bewitching, enigmatic Merrick, bloodthirsty Akasha and the amazing Gabrielle, Lestat’s mother (whom he turns into a vampire) all the other women seem to be subdued, quiet and forever in Lestat’s shadow.

Thirdly, smaller books in the TVC series such as ‘Vittorio the Vampire’, ‘The Body Thief’ and ‘Pandora’ felt dull, stolid, and too bogged down in historical accuracy and vague philosophy/ theological concepts. When Rice pushes religious theories and allusions, she pushes them hard. In one book of TVC- ‘Memnoch the Devil‘- Lestat actually enters in Hell in pursuit of a demon.

At times, it was fascinating at first to read the life stories of these interconnected vampires, but all their sermonizing and endless wondering just felt bland, and slowed down the pace.

The same here with this one- ‘Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis‘. (PLATROA.) Lestat is hardly the charming, seductive, resilient wolf killer avid Rice fans will know and love. Instead, he’s the ‘prince’ of all vampires and possessed by a demonic/vampiric spirit named Amel, who he presumably must protect, while getting rid of. Eh? Also, he’s on a quest for the mystical realm of Atlantis. Come again? The only good bits of this were his scenes with his protegee/ertswhile boyfriend, dreamy, handsome Louis Ponte du Lac, who is usually even more philosophical than Lestat, and mired in questions of faith and morality. (For those of you who watched the awesome film version, Lestat is Tom Cruise, and Louis is Brad Pitt.)

It was also good to see the return of old familiar favourites such as Magnus. (No, not this Magnus, or even this one– a different Magnus entirely, I assure you.) Lestat and Louis also kiss on the lips in one scene- hurrah! And yet in my opinion, this book is just not worth the effort. It was was far too long, with characters popping up like mushrooms and giving long winded points of view. PLATROA was also full of stilted, dry dialogue. Lestat and his minions spend far too much time talking about how great Lestat is (including Lestat himself,) and debating pointless matters- and even the debating is dull. (I was tempted to put in a joke there about mass debating, but I won’t.) For all the homoerotic elements, there are absolutely no (openly) lesbian or transgender characters- a real shame, given that the novel contains vampires of all different faiths and backgrounds. A lot of the plot is also Lestat musing on what’s gone on before in previous books, which also slowed everything down. By the time it got vaguely interesting, quite frankly I was too bored to care. That may sound harsh, but I’m a such a huge fan of the early TVC (books 1-3 especially,) that I felt so disappointed- I just knew Rice could do better than this, which was basically a rehash of previous themes, with the same characters. There are no creepy catacombs filled with cults of ragged, crazed vampires, no glamorous underground vampire bars, no even more creepy vampire children, (Claudia, I’m looking at you) and New Orleans is barely in it.

I think one of the problems is that ‘Lestat Mania’ has died down-after the huge success of IWTV, people were queuing up around the block to collect copies of TVC, were dressing up as Lestat, with his trademark blonde hair and purple sunglasses, and wearing Ankh necklaces– a reference to the Egyptian mythos of Queen Akasha in QOTD. (In some ways, the lack of this nowadays is a shame. If Lestat brought one thing, it was enviable style.)

Since those heady days, the sequel film to IWTV (‘Queen of the Damned’ ) bombed at the box office (major flaw: no Tom Cruise,) and after ‘Blood Canticle‘ Rice didn’t write any more TVD books for ten years, especially after ‘Blood Canticle’ got some pretty savage reviews. In those ten years, ‘Twilight’ (yes, I know, ugh) ‘True Blood’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’– among many others- have filled the gap, and brought a new edgy, teenage glamour to the old tales. Rice was also accused by some people of encouraging her (many, many) fans to hate on one single reader’s negative review (and subsequent decoupage) of ‘Pandora.’  PLATROA’s predecessor, ‘Prince Lestat’ also got mixed reviews (for instance, from Kirkus and the Guardian and online, although I’m sure there are many out there who love Anne Rice’s writing, and adore PLATROA. This review is, of course, just my opinion.

My own suggestion, however is to leave this one, and go back to the glory days with the first three books of ‘The Vampire Chronicles.’ Or otherwise, see the film and enjoy Lestat at his mercurial, mischievous, scheming best.

Overall rating: 2 out of 10

This book in four words: Long. Too. Many. Characters.

Read if you enjoyed: ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ series

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