Every author extends an invitation to their readers. They beckon to us from from shelves in bookstores or, perhaps more often today, from online listings with titles and cover art that promise adventure, discovery of truths, and a new understanding of the world around us. The promises are always there, but only the best follow through completely. Such is the case with Anne Rice’s newest novel Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.
When last we left Rice’s singular hero, Lestat had taken the spirit Amel, the very core and life force of the vampiric tribe, into his being and was proclaimed the Prince of Vampires. Amel has been one of the central mysteries of the author’s Vampire Chronicles.since we first learned of him in the fantastic Queen of the Damned. This powerful spirit once sought the favor of Maharet and Mekare, the powerful witches brought to Queen Akasha’s court when she learned of their abilities.
The twin witches offend Akasha and she orders her husband King Enkil to have them punished. He instructs his steward to rape the women in front of the entire court to prove that they have no real power and banish them from court. As they wander the desert toward home, Maharet discovers she is pregnant and Mekare, in a fit of rage, instructs Amel to fly back to the court to torment the King and Queen and he takes to the task with relish.
A group of conspirators corner and repeatedly stab Enkil and Akasha until they lie dying in pools of their own blood. Only then does Amel make his ultimate move. He fuses himself to the blood and flesh of King Enkil and Queen Akasha creating the very first vampires in all the world. From that moment on, whatever happens to the vampire who holds the core, can affect the entire tribe.
Now, you’re probably asking yourselves why I’m spending so much time talking about Amel, and the answer couldn’t be more simple. After 40 years of novels and a sprawling dynasty of vampires, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis is ultimately Amel’s story.
And it is a story for the ages. Rice offers her readers a bombshell wrapped in splendor that we never saw coming, and perhaps never even knew we wanted.
Everything that we have known of the vampires and of Amel up to this point, no matter how beautifully crafted and solidly formed, gives way to depths that this reader never thought possible. In fact, in Rice’s capable hands, I was almost left with the feeling that I should have thought of this before myself. The story grows organically from the themes Rice has infused in the Chronicles from the beginning.
Companionship, family, longing, crushing loneliness, a desperate need for love, a search for meaning in the chaos of the Savage Garden. In short, the things that we all search for are the very same that her vampires desire, and as it turns out, they are the things that Amel once sought himself.
As I promised in the title, there will be no spoilers here. What I will tell you is that as a longtime fan of Anne Rice’s vampires, witches, taltos, castrati, djinn, mummies,spirits, and even more recently werewolves, I was not let down in the least by this book. Rice is at her storytelling best when she allows her characters to reveal their origins in their own voices, and that’s exactly what we get in this book.
With each twist and turn in the story, a new truth is revealed about Rice’s beautiful world, a new layer is peeled back to reveal a new answer that immediately asks another question. In one swift movement in the last thirty pages of the novel, the world and undead life the vampires have known for millenia is completely and irrevocably changed. And the final question is simple.
The author is a tireless researcher and she delves deeply into the lore and legend of Atlantis in a way that expands the mythology of her vampires while honoring Plato and others who first wrote of the island that fell into the sea.
Rice has done what few writers could successfully pull off in Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. After 40 years and fifteen novels, she completely changed the immortal game, and I, for one, am waiting to see just where the next game piece lands. I was exhausted in the best possible way as I closed the cover and sat back to ponder this powerful journey.