The Vampire Lestat
(The Vampire Chronicles, Book Two)
By Anne Rice
Story Rating: 4 Stars
Performance Rating: 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 4 Stars
My journey into the Vampire Chronicles continues with round two. Man, so far this series has the ability to overwhelm me and push my thoughts towards the existential like no other book ever has. After my intense love affair with Interview With A Vampire a couple weeks ago, I was hesitantly curious about this sequel. I hated Lestat so much the first time around, I wasn’t sure if I could stand a whole novel told from his perspective. To my surprise (though I shouldn’t have been because Anne Rice is a genius) I really loved it and found this prequel/sequel really fascinating.
The story begins a decade-ish after the first one ended, in the 1980s. Our favorite vamp has been “sleeping” underground for quite some time, but is stirred at the new sounds of life happening outside. Upon his wake, the obvious progression of civilization overwhelms Lestat and he is curious about everything around him; clothing, music, religion, pop culture, politics, books, philosophy… You get the idea. He loves this new age where people are free to express themselves and everyone accepts it without batting an eye. The societal rules that once held him back no longer apply and he decides to take advantage this, hunting down a rock band he enjoys and confronting them. Lestat reveals what he is and promises to make the band rich if given the chance. They don’t believe him, of course, but compliment the clever choice of name for his little “act.” This only confuses Lestat and he asks what they’re talking about, only to discover that Louis helped write a book that told their history to the public. He’s completely shocked. Without even trying or knowing, Lestat has become the most famous vampire in history—mostly because he was a big douchebag.
In response, Lestat immediately starts penning his own novel and we dive head first into his origins. It opens with him Hulking out and killing a pack of wolves that had been terrorizing his village. Everyone is extremely grateful that he had the courage to kill them and even bring gifts in gratitude. One of these gift givers is Nicolas de Lenfent, nicknamed Nicki, who was shunned from his wealthy family when he devoted himself to learning the violin. As a secret aspiring actor, Lestat is immediately intrigued by him and his mother Gabrielle encourages her son to make a new friend. After their first dinner, the two are inseparable and even become lovers. Eventually they decide to hit the road to Paris where they will be free to live out their dreams, but Lestat is hesitant because of his mother’s failing health. Gabrielle knows that she’ll probably be dead soon, but she still tells Lestat to go and be happy and live as much as he can for her. With her blessing, the two go to Paris and create a new life performing with a theater troupe. Lestat is finally happy, so obviously that’s when a random old-man vampire comes to his room and steals him away.
Without much preamble or warning, Lestat gets changed into a vampire. And since the poor guy isn’t confused enough, his maker then immediately kills himself by walking into a fire—So. Not. Cool. He’s left with little instruction or help and relies mainly on his instincts as a guide. Despite being warned to stay away from his loved ones, Lestat can’t seem to help himself and uses his new inherited wealth to shower them with gifts. Gabrielle is ecstatic and happy for her son’s forturne while Nicki is….. not. He doesn’t understand why Lestat left and is very bitter, which is torturous for our narrator. In the end, Lestat can’t stay away and eventually visits his theater troupe friends, including Nicki, who welcome him back with open arms until they realize he’s not quite human anymore. At the same time, Lestat’s mother Gabrielle takes a turn for the worse and surprises her son with a visit to see him one last time. Initially he tries to hide his vampy-ness, but can’t stand the thought of watching her die and offers her eternal life, which she very quickly accepts.
To make a very very very long story short, after Lestat turns Gabrielle and eventually Nicki too, they face great adversity that drives wedges between them all. Armand and his band of religious vamp-followers are not happy with how they’re conducting themselves, and eventually split Lestat’s coven apart. He is completely miserable and hopeless, finding brief relief with an ancient vampire named Marius, before he’s forced to leave him too. This horribly bitter state is how he finds Louis, and the rest we already know.
In the epilogue, we finally get to see Louis and Lestat reunited, giving me warm-fuzzies that I didn’t know I wanted until it was already happening. Plus, we get to see Lestat play a stadium show with his now famous rock band and it quickly turns sour when pissed off vampires decide to attack. Until next time…
*Opens mouth. Closes it. Opens it again.* ……….Well. Hmmm. A lot to ponder this time around.
If I had told myself at the end of Interview With A Vampire that I would ship Louis and Lestat AND hate Armand’s guts by the end of this one, I would have laughed in my own face. No way. But somehow Anne Rice managed to completely turn my own opinion and I can’t help but like Lestat’s character. I’m not entirely sure when the switch got flipped, but I find myself at the end of a transformation I didn’t even know was occurring. In the first novel I wanted to wring his neck. Now whenever he does anything vaguely evil I laugh like I’m watching a mischievous kitten.
“Oh Lestat! He’s so CUTE when he’s trying to dismantle the entire vampire structure!”
During the first novel, I fell so hard for Louis with his big heart and brooding nature that I hated Lestat for him. To me, it seemed completely logical that Louis and Claudia tried to kill Lestat by setting his ass on fire. So you can imagine my surprise when Lestat manages to undermine the ENTIRE first book in a few short sentences, saying Louis has his own perspective on events and conveniently omitted all the good times they had together. Lestat even goes on to explain some of the horrible things he did, somehow making it okay. It was a brilliant move on Rice’s part that left me completely speechless with a burning need to re-read the first novel again.
And this is a little macabre to discuss in a lighthearted book review, but I would feel remiss not mentioning it. I have never had my own fear of death described quite so accurately before. It struck a chord inside of me. Fear of death is something we all share, but it’s a vast, baser kind of terror that’s hard to grasp or put in words and I think Anne Rice captured that fear amazingly. Somehow, after reading this, I feel like I have a better grasp on myself—like I know that part of me a little better. That’s both good and bad. I think everyone would rather remain in blissful ignorance when it comes to death, but it also made me feel not so alone.
Similarly to Interview With A Vampire, this book felt looooonnnnnnng since Rice shoves hundreds of years into a few chapters, but it’s lenth was a little more tedious this time around than it was before. Despite the whole being-an-immortal-vampire thing, I can see a lot of myself in Louis, which played a big role in winning me over the first time around and put a positive spin on it’s long length. I was just happy to be spending more time with a character I really cared about. Even after Lestat won me over in this second book, I wasn’t invested and held him at a distance. My attention wasn’t completely captured and tended to drop in between major plot points.
Plus, it didn’t feel like I was reading about the same Lestat. The Lestat in this novel felt completely different than the one I experienced before. Maybe that’s because my feelings for him changed so drastically, or maybe this was done on purpose since the first book is in Louis’s perspective. Whatever the reason, it felt like I was reading a story about some other completely different vampire. It wasn’t until his reunion with Louis at the very end that I connected the two Lestat’s together in my mind. This is probably my problem and no fault of Rice’s and I might solve it for myself by re-reading the first novel, but I wish there had been a better way to bridge the gap between the two.
Personally, I just don’t think this book is as strong as the first one, but it’s still a good read. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think—it has everything! I would definitely give this a try if you loved the Interview With A Vampire as much as I did.