Having just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I involuntarily reached for Pandora in an attempt to continue on the path of the gods/myths stories. I am not stranger to Anne Rice’s prose, having read a few of her books of which “The Mayfair Witches” was by far my favorite.
The story begins in a café in modern day Paris, where Pandora, an ancient vampire, is writing her life’s story. Like the famous woman who inspired her name, Pandora is about to open the box which contains the memories of a life that goes back to ancient Rome. Reluctant at first but then caught under the spell of remembering, she starts writing about her father, who was an important Senator during the reign of Augustus Cesar, her brothers and her life. It was a time of freedom and learning, of oratorical discourses and leisure which came to an abrupt halt when Pandora’s family was murdered and she was forced to go into hiding to the great city of Antioch. Tormented by blood dreams and followed by a mysterious creature rumored to be a blood drinker, Pandora seeks refuge into the temple of Isis where she learns about the ancient worship of the goddess which included feeding on blood. There she sees Marius again, a blond, blue-eyed “blood-god” whom she had met as a young girl in her homeland. Their love will keep them together for two hundred years in the city of Antioch where they would spend their days reading ancient texts and arguing, keeping vigil over the ancient Pair, the King and Queen whose death would cause the extinction of all blood drinkers.
This book was a tangle of stories, names, writings and old legends set on a background of vampire lore. It starts beautifully, with Pandora slowly trying to gather her ideas and bring back memories of childhood. There are beautiful passages imbued with sensuality:
“Naturally, David, you would leave me something elegant, an inviting page. This notebook bound in dark varnished leather, it is not, tooled with a design of rich roses, thornless, yet leafy, a design that means only Design in the final analysis but bespeaks an authority. What is written beneath this heavy and handsome book cover will count, sayeth the cover.”
“I am thinking about your request in writing. You see, you will get something from me. I find myself yielding to it, almost as one of our human victims yields to us, discovering perhaps as the rain continues to fall outside, as the café continues with its noisy chatter, to think that this might not be the agony I presumed – reaching back over the two thousand years – but almost a pleasure, like the act of drinking blood itself.”
Sadly, these are about the only paragraphs I really enjoyed from this book. I read the story fairly quickly because I just hoped it would get better and I do hate giving up on a book. As the narrative continued and I was thrust into the precipitating events, everything seemed just a blur of people, references to famous writers and texts. Ovid’s Amores and Metamorphoses, a quote from Shakespeare and references to her own books and characters like “Memnoch the Devil” (which I haven’t read), Lestat, “The Queen of the Damned” (I’ve seen the movie), bits of Egypt and Roman history, all contributed to make the story too intricate for my taste. Add to that a penchant for exclamation marks and fast dialogue and the picture is complete. What I can say is that I’m glad I got to read “The Mayfair Witches” first. Had I started with this book, it would have been difficult to give Anne Rice’s books another try.
*Read in November 2011