(Where Chloe focuses more on the books than the author, and isn’t quite as academic as Myles).
There are a few big names that come to mind when one considers vampire fiction. Anne Rice is one of the biggest—at least, I definitely think she should rate higher than Stephenie Meyer. Rice’s work is prolific, and there are stages to it which might be tricky to navigate if you’re just picking it up. There are the vampires, of course. There are the witches. More recently, there are the werewolves. And let’s not forget the erotica!
- Interview with the Vampire – This is what Rice is best known for, and not just because it was adapted into a film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Set in sultry New Orleans, Interview with the Vampire follows the story of Louis de Point du Lac as he tells it to an intrepid journalist whose name we are not told until later on in the Chronicles. Louis was an aristocrat, turned into a vampire by the salacious Lestat de Lioncourt. What Rice captures best are the emotions exhibited by these creatures who experience everything with heightened senses. Their love of music and of art is especially profound, and written with such richness that you feel as if you, the reader, are right there experiencing the same awe and wonderment. If you are new to Anne Rice, start here! Move on to The Vampire Lestat, then Queen of the Damned. Other notable chronicles (that do not need to be read in order) are Blood and Gold, Pandora, and Vittorio.
- The Lives of the Mayfair Witches – In this trilogy, Rice explores the lives of the witches that make cameo appearances in the above vampire chronicles. The research is accurate, and the witches are as intriguing and beautiful as the vampires. Within this trilogy, creatures called Taltos are introduced; born fully grown, the Taltos are willowy and fragile, and can only eat and drink things that are white. While reading Lasher and Taltos (the second and third books) I found myself consuming more milk than I had in my entire life thus far. This is how suggestive Rice’s writing is—you want the things that she is describing. I am almost certain my love of Cognac was born from these books, too. If you’re into witches, start with The Witching Hour.
- Cry to Heaven – Another thing that Rice does very well is historical fiction. Where her vampires and witches are threaded through with beautiful historical landscapes, they are not all set steadfastly in one place. Cry to Heaven is set in eighteenth-century Italy, where boys were castrated to preserve their singing voices. They were called the Castrati. Part political thriller, part drama, Cry to Heaven is a blissfully melancholic novel that perfectly captures the transcendence that music can inspire. Violin is another standalone novel with similar musical themes, though set in modern day New Orleans.
- Servant of the Bones – Yet another novel rife with historical splendour, Servant of the Bones is a prelude to Rice’s later foray into religion (Christ the Lord, Angel Time, and Of Love and Evil – none as good as the earlier work). It follows Azriel, who does not know whether he is a ghost, an angel, or a demon. He is bound to serve whoever is in ownership of the gold-encased bones of his moral body, denied entry to heaven, and forced into immortality – summoned only when he is needed. As with many of Rice’s novels, Azriel’s story is told by a fireside—it is long and meandering, and though it cn feel disjointed, sometimes, it still transports the reader solidly to another time and place.
- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty – L. James is hardly a groundbreaking author. Other authors got there first, including Anne Rice. Writing under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is the first in a series of erotic novels that twist common fairytales into something raunchy and vaguely disturbing. The series starts with the waking of Sleeping Beauty. A prince has kissed her on the lips, and she believes she’ll be married to him, and made Queen. Instead, she is taken to his kingdom where she is forced to become a sexual slave, and the Prince is her master. She is not the only one. There are other slaves, too, all kidnapped princes and princesses. If they misbehave, they are punished. And if they do well, they are rewarded. The trilogy has recently been re-released in one hardcover edition following the recent trend in erotic fiction.