Blackwood Farm: Settings, language, atmosphere and imagery are second to none

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Anne Rice The Vampire Chronicles Blackwood FarmBlackwood Farm by Anne Rice

In the ninth book in The Vampire Chronicles (though the books are self-contained and can be read out of order) we meet Tarquin “Quinn” Blackwood, a fledgling vampire with a serious problem. The book opens with a letter he has written to the famous Lestat, begging him for advice in how to deal with the continued presence of Goblin, a spirit that has dwelt with Quinn for his entire life but is now taking on frightening new characteristics and powers after Quinn’s conversion to vampirism.

To Quinn’s surprise, Lestat agrees to help him, and joins him at his grand home of Blackwood Farm where Quinn begins to tell his story. Beginning in childhood and ending with his transformation into a vampire, Quinn’s autobiographical account takes up 90% of the book, with only a few chapters front and back that deal with events in the present time. This account is equal parts intrigue and dullness; interesting when it deals with Goblin and the mysterious Sugar Devil Island, but sluggish when it provides endless detail on Quinn’s relationships, personal growth and interests. To put it bluntly, Quinn is likeable enough, but not particularly interesting.

But his supernatural experiences keep the reader involved. His love/hate relationship with Goblin is the central storyline of the novel, and though it often reminded me of Lasher and the Mayfair Witches, it is ultimately revealed to be quite different. Quinn also shares his lineage, starting with his ancestor Manfred Blackwood and the story that emerges that eventually leads him to a mysterious hermitage on Sugar Devil Island out in the swamp. Quinn immediately adores the secluded island, but it seems that the house and the odd mausoleum are already inhabited by some sinister being…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAlso included in the story is Quinn’s experiences with an evil spirit named Rebecca who was the mistress of Manfred and came to an unfortunate end, and his introductions to both the Talamasca and the Mayfair family (who readers will have already met in other books). Of especial note is Mona Mayfair whom Quinn falls madly in love with. As well as this, there are a range of family members and devoted servants at work in Blackwood Farm — especially his beloved Aunt Queen — and illegitimate children, ghostly inhabitants, vampire visitors, secret lovers and other friends and tutors who influence Quinn’s life.

It’s all melded together into a complex, detailed narrative that’s filled with trivia and occult lore that harks back to previous Rice books, (I especially liked the fact that Quinn notices the word “Lasher” carved into the oak tree on the First Street property, something that will mean nothing to someone that hasn’t read The Witching Hour). We get updates on several characters and concepts, such as Lestat, Rowan and Michael, Merrick, Mayfair Medical and the Talamasca, with a cameo appearance from Oncle Julien and an ending that opens up a brand new world for a reoccurring character.

As always, Anne Rice‘s settings, language, atmosphere and imagery are second to none. Every swath of velvet, every shimmering cameo, every strand of Spanish moss is described in loving detail — Rice doesn’t just write a book, she creates a world. Blackwood Farm is meticulously planned and described, from the house’s interior, to the outdoor cemetery to the treacherous passages of the swamp. I loved the idea of the secret Sugar Devil Island, and found as much pleasure in its restoration as Quinn did. Many are frustrated at Rice’s meandering pace when it comes to such detail; on this particular occasion however, I was in no hurry and simply enjoyed the story as it unfolded. However, there are a few problems that stilted my enjoyment of Blackwood Farm.

First of all, is the fact that Quinn falls in love quite a lot, seemingly with anyone and everyone around him. Seconds after meeting Mona he is declaring that he intends to marry her. He abruptly loves Petronia after spending most of the book despising and fearing her. He has an affair with a woman who rocked him in his cradle, wooing her in the most unromantic way possible. Even Lestat gets in on the act — after hearing Quinn’s story, the first thing he tells him is: “I’ve fallen in love with you.” At this stage I let out a hearty: “Huh?!” Love is cheapened when it’s thrown around so haphazardously and after a while it gets both ridiculous and tedious. There is neither intrigue, realism nor passion when characters so suddenly declare their eternal love.

A lot of time and effort is spent in introducing the evil spirit of Rebecca, the mistress of Quinn’s ancestor, but toward the end of the novel she is dropped and not picked up again. As interesting as her situation and tragedy is, I had to wonder: was there a point to her at all? Other characters that I became intrigued with are also neglected; namely Arion and Manfred who seem to have fascinating stories of their own which are only vaguely hinted at. And as always, (at the risk of sounding prudish) the sex-capades of various characters are a little too graphic for my liking, especially as here most of it is between humans and spirits — which gets a little weird.

But all in all, I liked Blackwood Farm, perhaps because it reminded me of my favourite Anne Rice novel The Witching Hour, with its regressions into a mysterious family and its dealings with the supernatural. Whether it’s read as a continuation of The Vampire Chronicles or a stand-alone novel may impact one’s enjoyment of it, but as one who reads Rice’s books sporadically and without any regard for chronology (oops, I know) I give it a healthy three stars.

The Vampire Chronicles — (1976- ) Publisher: Witness the confessions of a vampire. A novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force, it is a story of danger and flight, love and loss, suspense and resolution, and the extraordinary power of the senses.

Anne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood CanticleAnne Rice The Vampire Chronicles 1. Interview with the Vampire 2. The Vampire Lestat 3. The Queen of the Damned 4. The Tale of the Body Thief 5. Memnoch the Devil 6. The Vampire Armand 7. Merrick 8. Blood and Gold 9. Blackwood Farm 10. Blood Canticlefantasy and science fiction book reviewsBlood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat (Vampire Chronicles) Kindle Edition by Anne Rice  (Author)

New Tales of the Vampires — (1998-1999) Publisher: Anne Rice, creator of the Vampire Lestat, the Mayfair witches and the amazing worlds they inhabit, now gives us the first in a new series of novels linked together by the fledgling vampire David Talbot, who has set out to become a chronicler of his fellow Undead. The novel opens in present-day Paris in a crowded café, where David meets Pandora. She is two thousand years old, a Child of the Millennia, the first vampire ever made by the great Marius. David persuades her to tell the story of her life. Pandora begins, reluctantly at first and then with increasing passion, to recount her mesmerizing tale, which takes us through the ages, from Imperial Rome to eighteenth-century France to twentieth-century Paris and New Orleans. She carries us back to her mortal girlhood in the world of Caesar Augustus, a world chronicled by Ovid and Petronius. This is where Pandora meets and falls in love with the handsome, charismatic, lighthearted, still-mortal Marius. This is the Rome she is forced to flee in fear of assassination by conspirators plotting to take over the city. And we follow her to the exotic port of Antioch, where she is destined to be reunited with Marius, now immortal and haunted by his vampire nature, who will bestow on her the Dark Gift as they set out on the fraught and fantastic adventure of their two turbulent centuries together.

Anne Rice New Tales of the Vampires 1. Pandora 2. Vittorio the VampireAnne Rice New Tales of the Vampires 1. Pandora 2. Vittorio the Vampire

CLICK HERE FOR MORE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES.


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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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