Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
There's a brilliant madness to the excesses of this novel. Quite like New Orleans itself, the city she adores and adores writing about, Rice's prose is decadent, perhaps a bit overwrought, but all the more beautiful for it. I'm glad I waited to read this one, because my younger self would have struggled with it; the advice, when I'd first bought it, was to skip over the history of the family and stick to the main storyline, which I'd fully intended to do, back then, but I would have missed so much texture of the book, of the story, by ignoring the work Rice put into crafting the family history so painstakingly.
Michael and Rowan are hugely sympathetic heroes, and Rowan is problematic in all the best ways; as I've stated before,I like female characters who challenge me. She's interesting, at times cold, and so assured of her own strength and genius, she falls right into the trap that her ancestors had, even after being warned, in detail, about it by thinking she's far stronger than Lasher, and can trick him. The ending would have shocked me a lot more had I not been spoiled for it more than twenty years ago (by the same person who told me to skip the hundreds of pages of the family history) but it still felt devastating, which is a testament to the emotional attachment the reader forms with especially Michael.
One of the most common criticisms I've seen of the book was that it's uncharacteristic of Rowan, her choice at the end, her fascination. Were we... were we reading the same novel? It made complete sense to me, character-wise, and I think I even felt it coming a little.
As a matter of fact, one of the most interesting aspects of the novel is the genderswap of expected genre characteristics: Rowan is cool and calculating; she's the doctor who is fascinated with detail, with precision and knowledge. While Michael is ruled by emotion, considered too fragile (and hysterical) to be told the truth. It turns tradition on its head, and that was something wonderful to read. And to see other readers try to deal with in their small way, heh.
The other, most typical criticism is that this book needs an editor, badly. I don't... disagree? But I agree for different reasons. It is overwritten, but I can feel the brilliance of it, her inspiration, especially in the history section. Where I think an editor was needed would have been in making certain she doesn't repeat information (she does) and maybe finding a way to integrate Michael and Rowan more often in between the Files. The history Files work best when they're written as firsthand accounts, Petyr van Abel's being the most in depth and fascinating, and the Disappearance of Stuart Townsend (heh) being the other. The rest reads as extremely dry, and I found myself skimming liberally. It would have been phenomenal if she'd managed to do it all in found journal format, I think; she'd have taken it over the top.
Also, Stuart Townsend? It's hilarious! Not, you know, simply because of the actor, but because that actor was one of the Lestat's in the near distant future of the book's publication.
Lastly, I wish the ending,after almost 1000 pages, hadn't felt like a cliffhanger. It does. That's not necessarily either a criticism or a bad thing, but I just really need the sequel now, and need the spare time to invest in reading it!
The book is extremely affecting, gorgeously written (how can she write purple prose that seems like actual poetry? How?!) If I were only going to have on Halloween read this October, this was a good pick for me. It's going right onto my favorites shelf!