Anne Rice has a much-anticipated Vampire Chronicles TV show in the works at Hulu, and now she has a new book in the series starring her most beloved character: Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat. It’s the first Rice novel to include illustrations — and we have an exclusive excerpt and some image reveals to share.
First, here’s some words from the author herself, explaining a little bit more about her book and its accompanying drawings by artist Mark Edward Geyer:
This is a dream come true, to see a tale of Lestat, my beloved Brat Prince, illustrated, and so beautifully, and tastefully. Mark Edward Geyer’s work makes this a unique and special volume of the Vampire Chronicles. I’m confident the readers will share my enthusiasm when they hold the book in their hands. I am so happy with this publication.
Geyer also contributed illustrations to The Alphabettery, a companion guide for all of the author’s Vampire novels written by Rice scholar Becket, with an introduction by Rice. That comes out October 23, but you’ll be able to get your hands on Blood Communion much sooner, since it publishes October 2.
Actually, why wait that long for your first taste?
Check out the illustrations above and below, and then read on for a juicy sneak peek at Blood Communion’s third chapter.
I was in love with the being the moment I glimpsed the house and the great black iron picket fence surrounding it. Such high fences these days are often made of aluminium, and they just don’t look the same as iron. But this fence was indeed crafted from true iron and very high, with gilded pickets like the great fences and gates of Paris, and I loved that mark of care, including the heaviness of the arched gate as I opened it.
Down a relatively short drive lined with majestic oaks stood the house itself, with high front steps of marble and galleries upstairs and down running across its broad façade. Graceful two-story Corinthian columns punctuated these galleries, giving the place a Graeco-Roman grandeur that suggested a temple.
I figured the place had been built in the flush years right before the Civil War when rich Americans threw up such immense houses in desperate competition with one another, using the native cypress wood and stucco to produce an edifice that appeared to be all of marble when it was not.
I caught the scent of the oil lamps before I marked their soft mellow light behind the heavily figured lace curtains, and I stood for a moment on the bottom step looking up at the fanlight above the broad front door. All the scents of Louisiana, so familiar, so enticing, descended on me: The raw fragrance of the magnolias blooming in abundance on the nearby trees, and the deep perfume of the roses in the garden patches along the galleries, and jasmine, night jasmine of such a sweetness that one could drift off into endless dreaming just breathing it in, and remembering long-ago nights, and life moving confidently at a slower pace.
Steps in the hall beyond, and then a figure in the doorway, imperially slim, as the poet says, and with hair like my own, long, so blond it was almost white, gathered back in the fashion Marius and I had popularised at Court. And a hand raised with the flash of a ruby ring beckoning for me to enter.
I hurried to accept the welcome while Thorne and Cyril drifted off to make an inspection of the property, as they so often did.
As soon as I clasped his hand, I liked this blood drinker. His eyes were not large, but they were radiantly blue and his smile animated his entire face.
“Come in, Prince, do come in,” he said in very precise English, sharpened by an accent I couldn’t place.
He was my height and indeed quite thin, wearing a narrow-waisted modern coat and an old-fashioned lace-trimmed shirt over flannel trousers, and wingtipped shoes polished to a mirror lustre, with string ties.
He drew me into a broad central hallway, paved in black-and-white marble, and then into a great spacious double parlor, so common in old plantation houses, which had become a library lined with books of all ages. A center table stood in the second parlor, and there we sat down to talk.
By then I’d glimpsed a dining room across the hallway, with a long oval table and English Chippendale chairs. That room too was lined with bookshelves.
Quaint glass oil lamps scattered here and there on the periphery of these rooms provided warm light. The highly polished heart-pine floors were lustrous. Those old floors had never meant to be bare, but rather an under flooring for carpets or parquet. But the polymer lacquer had rendered them hard and beautiful and they gave an amber glow to the room.
“Please call me Mitka,” he said, “and your bodyguards are most welcome to come in. My name is Dmitri Fontayne. I’m part Russian, part French. I was made a blood drinker in the time of Great Catherine in Russia.”
This delighted me. Vampires in the main don’t volunteer their age or their history this readily, and he seemed entirely trusting when he came so easily to the point.
His mind was entirely in accord with his words, and these words particularly fascinated me. I don’t think I’d ever encountered a blood drinker with quite this background. And there was a great deal I wanted to tell him about Louis suddenly, Louis who was immersed in the novels of Tolstoy, and had myriad questions about them which no one cared to answer, and how much Louis would love him right off.
But I came back to the moment.
“Mitka, my pleasure,” I said. “And you know who I am. Lestat will do, though it seems the world likes to address me as ‘the Prince.’ Don’t worry about Thorne or Cyril. They know I want to talk to you alone.”
“As you wish,” he said. “But they mustn’t go far. You have enemies.”
“If you’re speaking of Rhoshamandes, I know all about him and his latest activities....”
“Ah, but there are others, Prince,” he said. “Please tell them to remain near at hand.”
I did as he wished, sending a silent message to the others, who were prowling around the stables now, having a good time with the horses, which were apparently splendid, and which they wanted to ride.
“Which enemy is this? You do know the band of mavericks in New Orleans has been annihilated?”
“Yes, I do,” he said. A shadow passed over his face, and he looked down for a moment as if he were murmuring a prayer for the dead, but I caught nothing, and then he surprised me by quickly making the Russian Sign of the Cross. Like the Greeks, the Russians touch the right shoulder before the left.
As he looked up, his face brightened beautifully and I felt a kind of elation that was all too common of late, simply being here with him in this ornate parlor surrounded by hundreds of enticing volumes, and feeling the night air through the long open windows to the south. Roses again, the scent of roses in Louisiana is perhaps stronger than anywhere else, and then there came on the breeze a great drift of green fragrances from the nearby swamp, all so redolent of life.
I had to get myself in hand. Fits of laughter, I’d always struggled with at odd moments, and fits of rage occasionally, but now it was spells of elation, as if the common comforts of the world were miracles.
A passage came to me suddenly from Tolstoy, something that Louis had read to me, something that Prince Andrei Bolkonsky was thinking as he lay close to death. Something about love, love making everything possible, and then Louis’s strange comment that Tolstoy’s first two great novels were studies of happiness.
“Ah yes,” said the blood drinker opposite me with irresistible enthusiasm. “ ‘Happy families are all alike,’ ” he said quoting the famous first line from Anna Karenina. Then he caught himself. “Forgive me. I make it a matter of courtesy not to ransack the minds of those I’ve only just met. But I couldn’t help it.”
“No need to be concerned at all,” I said. I looked about the room. Too many topics of conversation pressed in on me and I tried to find some order. What had we been talking about? Enemies. I didn’t want to talk about enemies. I started to talk about all that I saw before me, the inevitable Philadelphia wing chairs flanking the marble fireplace, and a tall secretaire punctuating the bookshelves, a lovely piece with inlaid designs and mirrored doors above the flap of the desk.
He was at once brightly happy over this. And something mad occurred to me, that every single time I ever encountered another blood drinker in friendship, it was as if I were meeting and entering an entire world. Seems I’d read somewhere, or heard it in a film, that the Jews believe each life is a universe, and if you take a life, well, then you are destroying a universe. And I thought, Yes, this is true of us, this is why we must love one another, because we are each an entire world. And with blood drinkers there were centuries of stories to tell, millennia of experiences to be related and understood.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking as you read this. All this is obvious. When people suddenly understand love they can sound like perfect idiots, true.
“This enemy is a creature named Baudwin.” Mitka’s voice startled me. “An unsavoury creature but a powerful creature, ancient, as ancient perhaps as Marius or Pandora, though I couldn’t myself tell. He was on the prowl in New York at the time that you came there, and made an enemy of Rhoshamandes, and were proclaimed the Prince. I haven’t seen him, however, in over a year.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” I said. “I’ll meet this Baudwin when the time comes. Let’s not waste these moments on him, though I appreciate the warning.”
There was no need for us to discuss the obvious, that if this Baudwin was of the same age as Marius or Pandora, he would destroy me in a moment with the Fire Gift just as I’d destroyed the mavericks in New Orleans. It was sobering to realise that there might be any number of such creatures whom I hadn’t come to know yet, who knew of me. I liked to believe that I met all of the Children of the Millennia and had a fair idea of who hated me and who did not. But I’d never heard of Baudwin.
“I love your house and all you’ve achieved here,” I said, pushing the darker thoughts from my mind. It was enough to know that Cyril and Thorne were paying heed to every word we said.
“I’m so happy you approve,” he responded. “I wouldn’t call it a restoration, since I have used some modern materials and made some distinctly modern choices, but I’ve done my best to use only superior materials throughout.” He too seemed to forget the darker thoughts and his face was fired with enthusiasm now, and as so often happens, the human warmth and the human lines came back to it, and I could see what sort of man he might have been. Likely thirty years of age, no more than that, and I noted how very delicate were his hands with which he gestured easily, and all of the rings he wore — even his ruby ring — were made with pearls.
“It’s taken me years to acquire the furnishings,” he said. “I remember in the beginning when I first came here in the 1930s, it seemed easier to find the very high-quality survivals from the eighteenth century — paintings, chairs, that sort of thing.”
He talked on easily of the bones of the house being excellent, and the old plaster falling away to leave bare-brick chain walls. Chain walls are walls that went all the way down to the ground rather than a foundation, and I had not heard that term in many years.
“The house was a total ruin when I first happened upon it. You understand I had no idea you were in New Orleans in those times. I knew there were blood drinkers about, but I knew nothing of them until many decades later when I read all of your stories, and I was riding on the old road to Napoleonville when I saw the house on the night of a bright moon, and I swore it spoke to me. It beckoned me to brave the wreckage and come inside, and once I did I knew I must bring it all back to its former glory, so that some night when I finally left it, it would be infinitely better than I’d found it, and I’d left my stamp upon it with pride.”
Excerpt from Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat (Vampire Chronicles) by Anne Rice, reprinted by permission. Copyright Knopf.