Review - RAMSES THE DAMNED - THE PASSION OF CLEOPATRA - Anne Rice and Christopher Rice
If like this reviewer you haven't read an Anne Rice novel for some years, what you might also be anticipating is some lovely floral prose that waxes lyrical about everything from flowers to landscapes. The glorious wallowing can be a bit of an acquired taste and all that navel gazing can come at the expense of plot.
As lovingly gothic and melodramatic the characters may still be, it was an absolute treat to experience Rice's creation King Ramses once again. It's been a long time since we saw his blue eyes on lurid paperback covers way back in 1989. THE MUMMY was gleefully passed around many an office worker back in the day, with all Anne Rice fans anticipating another lust worthy brat in the vein (pardon the pun) of Lestat from the Vampire Chronicles. (Can you believe that we first encountered Lestat in 1976?). Ramses too has had hundreds of years of past plots and relationships to mull over in his noble head, whilst playing God with the ability to keep others young forever, in the same manner as his hedonistic and pompous self.
In the winning fashion of why having one rockstar deity in your novel when you can have two, Rice and Rice have put two giants of history, King Ramses and Queen Cleopatra in the same work. Check your reality at the door of course, as despite having a wig out at the museum and dousing Queen Cleopatra with the immortal elixir, Ramses then sails forth into the world and creates a modern day identity and promptly exposes his baby blues to the social circuit. As one does, when you want to stay safe from scrutiny.
So we're not big on plot planning here but there are many gloriously overblown conversations, angsty experiences and swoon worthy immortals swanning about thinking furiously about what is to come next. Ramses is curiously toothless in this outing, compared to how fierce he was in the first book. More a brooder here than a doer.
The passion of Cleopatra isn't of the between-the-sheets kind as it turns out, but more that she has rediscovered her desire to live.
It was lovely to visit with Ramses once again, and as a co-authored book, you do wonder whose input we will see more of in future works of the (now continuing) series. One for the fans, but not a book you'd recommend for a reader who has never experienced the richness of the works of Anne Rice before. Once you have immersed yourself in the unrestrained narcissism of the immortals, it's an easy and pleasant reading experience just to ride along with their greatness just once again.
Planning a wedding to his newly immortal partner Julie, Ramses the Great has much to regret and much to look forward to. Now living life as Reginald Ramsay, Egyptologist, Ramses has kept his secrets to a chosen few and has found fresh hope in the modern age of the early 19th century. Always the diplomatic negotiator, Ramses intends never to waste his immortality again on steering the outcomes of those in power. It is enough to have his beloved Julie as his immortal companion, and the company of those intelligent and talented enough to amuse.
It is the last Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, who could bring this new life of his tumbling down. Resurrected by Ramses, Cleopatra is as tantalizing as ever but her memories are not what they were. There is another, an American writer, who is sharing Cleopatra's experiences during frightening fugues, seeing the past and present through the eyes of her ancient other.
An even more ancient and powerful queen who holds the secrets of the elixer watches them all - and waits.