New Tales of the Vampires
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The second entry in a new series of short vampire fabulisms began with Rice’s well-received Pandora (1998), set in ancient Rome. Now Rice’s charm-weaving about bloodsuckers moves up to Italy’s Age of Gold. As ever with her historicals, including Servant of the Bones (1996), Rice seems at her most thoughtful when blending research into neatly melodic paragraphs. Here, the action debuts five hundred years ago in the Florence of the Medicis. Young Vittorio, son of an incalculably wealthy father, lives in a mountaintop castle built on formerly Etruscan land (its graves predate Christ) and is trained for the knighthood at age 13. When demons invade the castle and kill all the adults (and steal all the children), Vittorio fights the demon Ursula and cuts off her arm, which she sticks right back on, while another demon beheads Vittorio’s younger brother and sister before his eyes. With no one left alive in the castle, Vittorio vows vengeance on the demons, arranges his family’s bodies in a crypt, then takes all the money and jewelry he can rustle up and sets out for Florence. But as night falls, Ursula reappears and ravishes the16-year-old in his bed, insisting that she’s saved his life. Soon he finds himself adrift in a town that’s under a strange spell—it’s a sort of Pleasantville without any known illnesses, any need for nuns, or any hospitals. Another donnybrook with demons, though, lands Vittorio in the court of the Ruby Grail, whose kitchen serves as a holding cell for all the sick people who—ve been missing from the village below. Vengeance redux, though his feelings for Ursula take an odd upsurge. The story then mires down joyously in the blissful vigors of demonic blood, with blood flowing everywhichway, and in the horrid hungers it brings. Love blooms in blood. Drink up, Riceans!

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40160-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999


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