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Blood Communion by Anne Rice review – beautiful vampires and no horror

The bloodline of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles is as enduring as the ancient blood drinkers about whom she writes and, with the publication of 1976’s Interview with a Vampire, is largely to blame for Twilight and the rest of its handsome and un-horrifying brood.

Fans of the series forgive me, for I am entirely new to it and may make observations that are obvious to you, knowing as I do only of the influence it has had on popular culture, the fiction of the vampire, and their chiselled new image. Once, the vampire had no need for mirrors, but you get the impression Rice’s regularly enjoy tending to their hair. “Almost all vampires are beautiful. They are picked for their beauty.”

Blood Communion is the 13th book in the The Vampire Chronicles series and continues the legacy of Prince Lestat, telling the story of how he became ruler of the vampire world. The book tries to ease readers new to the series in gently, spending the first few chapters giving background detail presumably covered in previous books, trying not to assume too much insider knowledge.

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But by about a quarter of the way in, I began to struggle with the growing cast of vampires, secret orders and communities, and with the amount of times the word “preternatural” was used (by chapter 5, musicians, dancers, voices, thoughts, skin, and eyes had all been described as preternatural). But my objection to lots of made-up names is probably just me; this is a fantasy book, after all.

Rice has created a rich, urban fantasy, one that is easy to lose oneself in, one that jumps between locations both familiar and exotic, from New Orleans (where the pavements “are like no other pavements in the world, some of flag-stone, some of herringbone brick, some of fractured and fragmented cement”) to the St Petersburg of the 1700s (“There was unimaginable wealth in Russia then, and such a great appetite for European art.”).

The world conjured is a romantic vision of the past, of the Prince’s grand Château set above an enchanting French village, tended to by servants in livery of black velvet, where everything has the gloss of the present looking fondly back at centuries gone. Which is why I found references to the 21st century as jarring as I did, such as when our Prince speaks of his Château with “innumerable salons through which you can wander, rooms in which you might settle to watch films on giant flat screens.”

This is not a gritty modern urban fantasy, of vampires struggling to survive on the boundaries of society, the world is as polished as the vampires’ looks, and I tired hearing of yet another new character being described as “beautiful”.

I suspect my lack of investment in this world is due to having jumped in at the very end. And being new to the series, I cannot speak for how typical Blood Communion is, or how one would rank it alongside its 12 predecessors. But if you’re already a fan, you don’t really need my opinion on whether you should read this book. As for everyone else, know that this is a rich and mostly enjoyable read, but one lacking an edge, and crucially for this blog: horror.

Blood Communion by Anne Rice is published by Knopf. Buy the book

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