Anne Rice revamped vampire fiction in "Interview with the Vampire," the first volume of her bestselling Vampire Chronicles. But the highest point of the entire series was "Queen of the Damned," an epic vampire story full of sensuality, terror, and a haunting picture of greed and power's effect.
Not only are vampires everywhere having odd dreams, but they are getting peeved about Lestat's music videos, which reveal secrets about vampire history. Some even plan to kill him. But those same music videos wake Akasha, the mother of all vampires, who kills her sleeping husband and casts Marius into an icy prison.
Then she goes on a rampage, setting vampires on fire and finally escaping with the Brat Prince himself. The vampire cast thus far gather together, hoping to defeat the malignant Akasha; elsewhere, Lestat begins to think the same when he finds that Akasha is a mad megalomaniac. But Akasha cannot be destroyed without killing every vampire on earth...
Out of her entire bibliography, Anne Rice wrote only one epic story -- one that spans the world, time, and three novels' worth of characters (Armand, Gabrielle, Marius, Louis...). Lots of fictional memoirs, but no more epics. Perhaps she should write more, because this book remains not only her finest novel, but a stirring, creepy read on its own.
Rice's lush prose is well-suited to many characters, whether they're rogue Talamasca or biker vampires. She skips effortlessly from ancient Egypt to a hard-rock concert, with the same level of skill. And most importantly, she creates a stunning explanation for why the vampires exist, wrapped up in ancient Egyptian imperialism and malevolent spirits.
The plot twists and winds itself every which way, before finally smoothing out into a finale that makes perfect sense. And the present scenario is just as gripping, with Lestat realizing that Akasha plans to kill off 99% of the men in the world, and be a goddess. That's what happens when you run off with strange women, Lestat.
The large cast in this means that almost everybody gets a turn in the spotlight -- Armand, Marius, Louis, Pandora, the guy who recorded Louis's story in the first book, and Gabrielle. Not to mention a few new ones, like the ancient Maharet and Mael. And the Brat Prince shines the most brightly of all, in his nastiness, naivete, and delight in his own unlife.
"Queen of the Damned" is a remarkable epic novel, despite the spotty series it was a part of. This is Anne Rice at her peak: thrilling, chilling, and almost magical.