Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra by Anne Rice & Christopher Rice

Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra
Anne Rice and Christopher Rice
Horror, Fantasy
Anchor
November 21, 2017
416

From the iconic and bestselling author of The Mummy and The Vampire Chronicles, a mesmerizing, glamorous new tale of ancient feuds and modern passions.

Ramses the Great, former pharaoh of Egypt, is reawakened by the elixir of life in Edwardian England. Now immortal with his bride-to-be, he is swept up in a fierce and deadly battle of wills and psyches against the once-great Queen Cleopatra. Ramses has reawakened Cleopatra with the same perilous elixir whose unworldly force brings the dead back to life. But as these ancient rulers defy one another in their quest to understand the powers of the strange elixir, they are haunted by a mysterious presence even older and more powerful than they, a figure drawn forth from the mists of history who possesses spectacular magical potions and tonics eight millennia old. This is a figure who ruled over an ancient kingdom stretching from the once-fertile earth of the Sahara to the far corners of the world, a queen with a supreme knowledge of the deepest origins of the elixir of life. She may be the only one who can make known to Ramses and Cleopatra the key to their immortality—and the secrets of the miraculous, unknowable, endless expanse of the universe.

When I was asked if I wanted an advanced copy of this book, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been a huge Anne Rice fan since I picked up a well-loved copy of Interview with a Vampire at a garage sale when I was about 12 years old. (I still have that paperback, and it is still in the exact same shape it was then…on the verge of disintegration.)

Too Soon?

Anyway, I picked up the book and dove in, not realizing until I was about halfway through that this was the second in a series. (I maybe found out because I’d been bragging about my advanced copy, and that was pretty much instant karma.)

The good news is, I didn’t really feel that there was such a lack of depth and worldbuilding that I didn’t know what was going on in this book. There was enough of the backstory present to make curious about the details that came before and to make me comfortable that I was running in the dark with a story I didn’t know enough about.

The story is, as to be expected, elaborate, slow-building, and meandering. There is a lot of detail, and at times it’s easy to get bogged down in all the things. It was a slower read than usual (I’m generally a very speedy reader), but it was still gorgeous, intriguing, and gripping.

Beautiful immortals doing rich, immortal things

I enjoyed the duality of Cleopatra and Sibyl, even with the too on-the-nose name, loved the story of Ramses and Julia, but gotta admit, all my love was for Bektaten and her immortal cat (who, presumably, as learned to use a toilet by now).

Staying with the Rice world, as much as I can

 

The second half of the book is where the action really picked up, and about 70% in is where I hit “can’t put it down” stage. Don’t get me wrong – I was interested in the entire story, but I wasn’t “oops, I missed my bus stop” into it until 2/3 of the way through. Finding out the answer to the Sibyl/Cleopatra mystery and how it would be resolved (for I carried such deep, deep sympathy for the mad, resurrected queen) was really the point of the whole book, but not something that seemed to be front and center for the first half.

 

If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely read the first book in the series first, and I definitely would still feel the same deep satisfaction whe Saqnos makes his choice. *no spoilers*

The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I’d prefer, but overall, I’ve no complaints. The story was rich and complex, the characters well-developed and capable of creating great feeling in me, and the world was intriguing and overall, beyond satisfactory.

“The vision receded, leaving her breathless… Only she wasn’t alone. She heard a voice, clear and gentle, speaking to her across the connection that had changed the course of her life.
Come back…”

 

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