Large arterial heart-piece in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.
Though much of the lordly speech (“Oh . . . you foolish, mad, self-important dreamer!”) suggests no advance in dialogue since Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur (1880) or H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887), Rice opens grandly, reviewing cultural vampirology, its origins and historical underpinnings, in a backstory skimmed from earlier works. Akasha, mother of all vampires and Queen of the Damned (1990), is 6,000 years old when red-haired twins Maharet and Mekare rise up and behead her. Mute Mekare becomes Queen, having taken into herself from Akasha the Sacred Core of blood drinkers. Akasha’s destruction liberates Marius, who for 2,000 years kept safe the sleeping bodies of Akasha and her consort Enkil, to tell his story to red-haired Thorne, a Viking given the Dark Gift long ago by Maharet. Too sensitive to kill, Thorne encased himself in an arctic cave for centuries and only now awakens to the modern world. As Thorne listens, Marius describes carrying the royal vampire coffins from Antioch to Rome, seeing Byzantium change into Christian Constantinople, and (skipping the Dark Ages) participating in Italy’s glory years of blood and gold, during which he becomes a great painter. For centuries he mourns his beloved Pandora, whom he fled in Antioch. A pair of two-dimensional vampires, angry Mael and tearful Avicus, cling to Marius as he meets the glorious Eastern vamp Eudoxia, who herself has drunk from Akasha. But Eudoxia must die and be replaced by Zenobia, a virginal variation on child-vampire Claudia. Besotted by Botticelli, painter Marius hears Satan whisper, Give Botticelli the Blood. Then Marius loves Bianca the poisoner and the Russian waif Amadeo/Armand. Later turns: Marius is burned by Christian Satanists and tries to win back Pandora.
Given her historical antecedents, Rice-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed writes like a damned Queen. Pure vellum in the chronicle.