When I was about fourteen or so, I discovered Anne Rice. While most Riceophiles started their journeys with Interview with the Vampire, I happened upon the only Rice book in the school library, which just so happened to be The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned. I absolute loved it, and couldn’t wait for the next installment.
Which never, ever arrived.
This was the bane of my young life, then the prickly annoyance of my twenties, and eventually settled into a mild disgruntlement and occasional fits of “but why, Anne! You wrote seventy bajillion vampires novels about every damn vampire in existence, why is there no Mummy sequel!?!?”. Only a few weeks ago, I was complaining about this very thing to someone at work, and I worked myself up into a tizzy all over again. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise (and my subsequent muttering about “synchronicity” and “brain worms” and “tinfoil hats”) when only a day or two later an actual sequel – written by Rice in partnership with her son, Christopher – became available for review and I got hold of a copy.
Obviously I had to review it immediately. IMMEDIATELY.
Except, it had been so long since I’d read the first book that I couldn’t remember much about it. So I tracked down a copy and did a swift reread. For scientific accuracy. My findings can be summarized thusly:
- There are so many more interesting and well-written Anne Rice books.
- This is a bodice-ripper. Hmmm.
- The female protagonist is drip who cries all the time.
- Oh well, it’s fun anyway.
I was interested to see where the Rices would go with the story, considering both are known for lushly gothic writing (and the first book is rather more “British” and reserved in tone). I’m happy to report that this is high-quality Rice. Julie, while still a little underwritten, is at least a little more interesting and independent (and isn’t weeping all the time). Less focus is spent on Ramses / Ramsey in Cavour of the much more tantalizing (if a bit mad) Cleopatra, and the mysterious immortal queen, Bektaten.
The action – set on the cusp of what would become known as “The Great War”- sweeps from Cairo to London to Monte Carlo and the United States, and it really is a rather ripping yarn. It’s definitely an Anne Rice story (with the exquisite descriptions of outfits and meals and the current emotional state of everyone in the room), but it has the feel of an old-school matinee movie from the 1930s or so. Friends, strangers, lovers and enemies alike find themselves drawn together by forces beyond their control, leading to an inevitable confrontation at the engagement party for Ramsey and his beloved Julie. It’s a mark of how engaging the writing is that I was truly invested in the outcome – The Passion of Cleopatra is pretty “unputdownable”.
So, all in all a strong return for Ramses, and a potentially addict new series. Hold thumbs that book 3 arrives before my 60th birthday.
Provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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