Saturday, January 20, 2018

Immortality has a price

Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra

Anne Rice & Christopher Rice


Anchor Books

November 21, 2017

3 & 1/2 stars




I believe Anne Rice lost her charms with me after the fourth or fifth vampire novel. The first three, starting with Interview with the Vampire, are masterpieces and cemented Rice's fame no master what she ended up writing. But even those novels soon started feeling like she wasn't really into it anymore. They became extended and tired run-throughs of the same ideas. The few other novels I read outside of the vampire niche didn't really grab me . But there is no denying Rice can be a mesmerizing writer in her best moments.

Her newest novel, Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra is a sequel to her 1989 novel The Mummy which I have not read. To be honest, this particular book got my attention because it was co-authored with her son, Christopher Rice. In some ways, Christopher Rice is a more interesting writer for the 21st century and if you have not read him you should. Check out The Heaven Rises. Rice's style has many similarities to his mother and in this new book, they mesh well but I believe I see a little spark in Anne Rice's writing I haven't seen for a while. Perhaps it is the spark of a proud mother.

The Passion of Cleopatra starts where the first one left off. It would probably be best to read The Mummy first but the authors give us enough background to proceed if you didn't. Ramses and Julia are betrothed. Cleopatra does not die in the train accident and fire but is cared for by a doctor who develops a slavish devotion to her. Most importantly we discover that the originator of the immortality potion is still alive and another immortal who is looking for the potion is searching has his own obsessive reasons for doing so. It appears, as Cleopatra has already found out, a little potion is not necessarily a good thing.

There is of course much more with lots of sub-plots and characters. Julia's brother who had a tragic romance with Cleopatra in the first book and a woman named Sibyl who has a mysterious and disturbing connection with Cleopatra are two of the more interesting characters asides from the lead protagonists. But this introduction, or rehashing, of these plots and characters tend to slow down the novel and it really doesn't go into full gear until about halfway through. It pays to get there though and it does give us a connection to the characters when it goes into full swing. Anne Rice always had a very Victorian feel, in my opinion, despite her modern sensitivity to emotions and sex and her son seems to play into that well enough to blend in with the style.

Overall, The Passion of Cleopatra is an entertaining read. I think those, like myself, who soured a bit on Anne Rice novels in the past will find this to be worth reading. Those who love Anne Rice or liked the first Ramses the Damned book will not be disappointed.

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