TVC: The Style: Blood and Gold (B&G)

Perfect Time
With her ever-present penchant for lavish descriptions and close attention to historical details, Rice transports us to a dazzling array of eras and places in Marius’ tumultuous, 2000 years long existence. In fact, I would say that her vivid writing style was put into greater effect in Blood and Gold than in any of the previous Vampire Chronicles books.

Despite how it repeated parts of what had already been described in The Vampire Armand, I especially enjoyed reading the Renaissance period part of the novel. Not only was this written as a powerfully sensory experience, filled with rich details about the art and socio-politics of Venice then, this also covered the apex of Marius’ life, his perfect age, his self-described “Golden Time”.

Marius found happiness once more in the exquisiteness and exuberance of this era’s art, and even went so far as to fall in love with Botticelli and to seriously hone his painting skills for the first time. But more importantly, he also found meaning in his personal life by both finding congenial companions once more, as well as helping his mortal apprentices to progress in life.

In putting together this ensemble, I went for a relaxed, resort-like look to suggest the atmosphere of Marius finally being at ease with his vampiric nature and being able to find joy in the world around him.

The maxi skirt and espadrille sandals are reminiscent of the high-waisted silhouette and chopines of the Renaissance era silhouette, while the watercolour-like print of the blue top reflects the dreamy, shimmering canals of Venice.

I also chose a gold-based palette and luxurious-looking jewellery to represent the opulence of Venice at the height of its power. Finally, the punch of red reminds us of the violence and destruction that abruptly ended this period of Marius’ life.

Blood and Gold: Perfect Time

Imperfect Immortal
Marius had appeared several times before, as a minor character in the previous Vampire Chronicles novels. There, he was the infinitely wise, ever patient and always rational scholar and mentor figure.

Revealing Marius’ many flaws and fears, Blood and Gold completely shatters this impeccable illusion of him and presents him as being every bit as imperfect and human as anyone else. The combination of the gold base, the black horn and the skull of the ring denote the chasm between what Marius appears to be and what he is truly like.

Succumbing to his anger, Marius had held onto past grievances, hurt those whom he loved and made decisions, which he would come to regret. In this outfit, his all-consuming fury and bitterness is represented by the streaks of red on the blouse, as well as the image of the bear on the shoes.

Due to his pride and stubbornness, he had repeatedly refused to listen to others’ opinions and advice and hence had his joy turn to ashes in his mouth. This trait is symbolised by the peacock feather earrings, the rich purple shade of the bag, and the image of the bull on the shoes.

The final nail in the coffin came is Marius’ duplicity. He had never been completely open and honest to any of those whom he loved. In fact, his dishonesty finally backfired on him totally and left him without the final companion who had remained by his side. The uneasy fit of the asymmetrical and aggressively coloured top and skirt echoes Marius’ constant need to reconcile the vastly different sides of himself.

Blood and Gold: Imperfect Immortal

Part 1 of my post on the “Queen of the Damned” can be found here: The Book: Blood and Gold (Blood and Gold).

The first of my series of posts on the Vampire Chronicles novels can be found here: Interview with the Vampire (IwTV).

The second of my series of posts on the Vampire Chronicles novels can be found here: The Book: Queen of the Damned (QoTD) , The Style: Queen of the Damned (QoTD).

TVC: The Book: Blood and Gold (B&G)

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to review and recap Anne Rice’s “Blood and Gold”? After all, this novel recounts the life of Marius de Romanus, a two thousand years old vampire born in the height of the Roman Empire. He is a scholar, a teacher, a painter, a gentleman…and possibly the only character in the Vampire Chronicles who has loved and lost more than Lestat.

Skipping over the frenetic way in which he was made into a vampire and his taking the Mother and Father of the vampires (AKA Akasha and Enkil, or “Those Who Must Be Kept”) into his care, Marius begins his story at a low point in his life. He has been quarrelling with Pandora, the only person whom he has loved in both his mortal and vampiric life, over how they should deal with rogue vampires who were after the powerful blood of “Those Who Must Be Kept”. In a fit of anger, he left their home in Antioch without a word, and took Akasha and Enkil with him. This would prove to be a decision that he would regret for centuries to come.

Back in Rome, Marius once again met Mael, the ex-Druid who had once captured him and offered him as a blood offering to his “gods”, and Avicus, Mael’s maker. Although Marius was still angry with Mael for consigning him to life as a vampire, he still yearned for some sort of vampiric companionship and the three of them eventually fell into an awkward alliance to fend off the rogue vampires who turned up continuously in Rome.

As Rome fell into decay around them, the three vampires moved to Constantinopole, the new centre of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, they then had to deal with Eudoxia, a vampire who was older and more powerful than any of them, and who ruled the city like a queen. Having claimed to have drunk Akasha’s blood before, she threatened Marius to take her to see Akasha and Enkil again. After she met her untimely demise, Marius met and fell in love with her young lover, Zenobia. However, as he knew that he had to act swiftly and brutally as the caretaker of Those Who Must be Kept, Marius was forced to leave her in the care of Avicus and Mael.

After a catatonic slumber through the Middle Ages, Marius rose once more to experience the Renaissance in all its glory. He settled in Venice, opened his house to train and educate poor young boys, and met the other two greatest loves of his life, Bianca Solderini (a courtesan who resembled the women painted by Sandro Botticelli) and Amadeo/ Armand (a teenage boy who was kidnapped from Kiev and sold to a Venetian brothel before Marius rescued him).

Marius’ happiness turned to ashes when Santino, a fanatical coven master whom Marius had once met and treated with indifferent contempt, returned to exact his vengeance. Deeply anguished and severely weakened by Santino’s attack, Marius turns Bianca into a vampire to support and comfort him. For the next two centuries, Marius busied himself with plans to destroy Santino, as well as to find Pandora (whom he has not seen for centuries) and Amadeo (who was kidnapped by Santino and forced to join his coven).

Having been separated over a millennia, Marius was finally reunited with Pandora in Dresden. This was a bittersweet moment: Pandora was happy to find him alive and well but, having found her own companion and led her own life for so long, she did not wish to live with him again. To make things worse, in a last-ditch attempt to make Pandora stay, Marius had offered to leave Bianca for her. Unfortunately, this was yet another one of Marius’ big mistakes. Bianca overheard him and decided to leave him too. By the end of his story, Marius was all alone once more.

The first of my series of posts on the Vampire Chronicles novels can be found here: Interview with the Vampire.

The second of my series of posts on the Vampire Chronicles novels can be found here: The Book: Queen of the Damned (QoTD) , The Style: Queen of the Damned (QoTD).

TVC: The Book: Queen of the Damned (QoTD)

New year, new look!

To usher in 2015, I decided to revamp this blog, based on the feedback, which I have received from my friends. The main changes include:

1. The blog theme/ background has been changed so that the font and colours are easier on the eye.

2. I will divide the blog contents for each book into 2 blog posts. Posts titled “The Book: (insert book name)” will cover the summary and/ or my opinions on the book, while posts titled “The Style: (insert book name)” will cover the outfits which I have put together based on the themes and characters in the book.

3. I will try to cut back on my coverage of the plots to avoid boring people and/ or accidentally giving away spoilers.

Hopefully the above improvements will provide a more entertaining and user-friendly experience for everyone. Now on to the fun part!

Summary
The first book that I am going to cover for 2015 is “Queen of the Damned”, which is the third novel in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series. It is set in the 1980s when Lestat has awoken up from his deep slumber. Carried away by the modern world, Lestat shocks and delights vampires and humans alike by becoming a rock star and telling the world about the origins of the vampires through his memoirs, songs, and music videos.

What he did not count on was how his actions roused Akasha, the titular character and nominal “mother” of the vampires, from HER far longer and deeper slumber. Unfortunately, she arose with a dark and obsessive purpose: to rebuild the world from scratch to create a sort of dark Eden where her chosen vampires will rule the night. Believing that human men are the source of the violence, poverty and generally all that is wrong in the world and that women would be more receptive to her teachings on how to improve the world, she plans to cull their numbers to obtain a world with a heavily skewed gender balance. Akasha also set out to destroy the “rogue” or “trash” vampires who did not fit into her scheme of global domination.

The main plotline of “Queen of the Damned” follows how various vampires, both old and new, came together as a council to find some way to stop Akasha. We also learn about the complete story of the origins of the vampires from the horse’s mouth. Moreover, we are privy to Lestat’s mental torment of simultaneously loving Akasha and being chosen as her King for the new world, versus wanting to stop her from destroying the world that he loves.

Opinions
This is my favourite book in the series, because of the sheer energy and exhilaration of its atmosphere. Not only does the novel tear its way to and fro between the mysticism and bloodshed of ancient Egypt and the chaos and shining lights of the 20th Century, it also lets us in the minds and lives of the “secondary” vampires, who normally don’t get much of a look-in.

I especially liked the chapters depicting the relationship between Daniel and Armand. While it was a surprisingly domestic vignette, centred on human hobbies and acquisitions and revealed much more about them than we have ever known, the almost dark and violent undercurrent throbbing in every interaction between them reminds you that you are fully ensconced in the Vampire Chronicles universe.

Part 2 of my post on the “Queen of the Damned” can be found here: The Book: Queen of the Damned (QoTD).

The first of my series of posts on the Vampire Chronicles novels can be found here: Interview with the Vampire.

TVC: Interview with the Vampire (IwTV)

I first stumbled upon the Vampire Chronicles (VC) series when I caught a rerun of the movie adaptation of the series’ 1st book “Interview with the Vampire”, while channel surfing. Sceptical at its title and subject content, I was ready for a mindless and overly dramatic B-grade pseudo-horror movie. Man, was I wrong. Before the movie even ended, I was furiously searching for (and happily found) all associated materials that could feed my hunger to learn more of Anne Rice’s enthralling denizens of the night.

In honour of the revival of the VC series with the release of “Prince Lestat” today, I have decided to start a series of posts on my favourite VC books. And of course, I must start with the book that began it all.

Overview
The post-modern/ gothic-horror book takes the form of a night-long interview, in which a 200 years old vampire, Louis de Pointe du Lac, tells his life-story to an unnamed boy reporter. In his mortal life, Louis was a young French plantation owner in late 18th Century New Orleans. Depressed after the death of his brother, Louis was turned into a vampire by the alluring blond French vampire Lestat de Lioncourt.

Introspective and bound by the strict moral strictures of his Catholic upbringing, Louis spiralled into endless despair at the unalterable fact that, in order to live, he now had to kill and drink blood. Moreover, he became disillusioned with Lestat’s callous behaviour in killing his victims and his refusal to tell him anything deeper about his vampiric nature other than the self-evident need to drink blood. Equally, Lestat became disgusted with Louis for clinging to his humanity by drinking blood from animals, avoiding killing humans, and reading for the sheer pleasure of it.

As their relationship deteriorated, Lestat sought to bound Louis to him by turning a 5 years old girl, Claudia, into a vampire. He succeeded and the 3 of them lived in a sort of pseudo-family structure for the next 70 years or so. Eventually, Claudia came to hate Lestat both for turning her into a vampire (hence trapping her mature mind and soul into the body of a child for all eternity and forcing her to depend on others for survival) and for withholding answers about their vampiric nature and whether there were other vampires around. After Louis and Claudia revolted against Lestat and left him for dead (twice), they set off for Europe in search of other vampires who can answer their existentialist questions on vampiric existence.

It was only in Paris that Louis and Claudia finally managed to find other “proper” vampires: the Théâtre des Vampires, a coven of vampire actors who “pretend to be humans pretending to be vampires”. The nominal leader, Armand, the self-professed “oldest vampire alive” seems to welcome them and provides them with vampire-related information. However, other members of the theatre troupe are wary of the pair as (1) it is a serious offence to create a child vampire like Claudia, and (2) they suspected that they killed their maker Lestat, an even more heinous crime in the vampire community.

Louis and Armand quickly formed a mutual admiration society and Louis decides to leave Claudia for him. At Claudia’s request, Louis turned a doll-maker Madeleine, who loves Claudia presumably because she resembles her deceased daughter, into a vampire, to care for Claudia. Unfortunately, the other vampires (under the supposed instruction of Lestat, who came back from the dead) deemed Louis and Claudia guilty as charged: they buried the former alive (who was rescued by Armand) and burnt the latter by sunlight. Enraged at what the other vampire mummers have done, Louis set the theatre ablaze and killed them all (with some help from Armand).

After travelling with Louis for several years, Armand finally tells him the truth and then leaves him: (1) Lestat did not die in the fire and was in fact back in New Orleans (yes, yes, I know: just how many comebacks can this guy stage?), (2) he killed Claudia, and (3) he is disappointed with Louis, who is now a shell of his former self. Louis meets up with Lestat, finds him in a decrepit and fearful state and leaves him, despite Lestat’s appeals for him to stay.

At the end of Louis’ story, the interviewer asked to be made a vampire. In furious disbelief that he did not seem to have understood the torment of eternal damnation, Louis drains him to the point of death and the interviewer passes out. When he wakes up, he immediately sets off to find Lestat in New Orleans. And so ends the beginning of the VC series.

At Last, A Moral Monster
It is widely accepted that IwTV is the seminal book that first gave vampires a human voice, character and conscience. Through our Byronic narrator’s eyes, we are able to explore the psychological dilemmas of an immortal monster who desperately wants to be good. Not only did Louis continually question the morality of all the death and violence, which he caused as a vampire, he also struggled with reconciling them with his Catholic faith and is largely consumed by his thirst to understand the vampiric nature and origins. By the end of the book, Louis is despondent, feeding on humans (albeit at a subsistence level and feeling guilty about it), has abandoned Lestat and slaughtered lots of vampires. So is he now good (as he still feels conscience-stricken), evil (because he has killed and will kill again), neither? Or is this question even relevant anymore?

The muted palette of black, white and gray reflect Louis’ eternal inner turmoil, and the sombre outfit, which he wore to give the interview. To evoke the 18th/ 19th Century silhouette, which Louis favoured, I have used classic menswear elements like the black coat, the laced brogues and the gray straw hat. The blood-red colour and flame-like shape of the ring symbolises the intense emotions (not to mention, the pyromaniac tendencies) hidden beneath Louis’ calm façade. Finally, in reference to Louis’ constant quest for vampiric knowledge, I have added a “Dracula” book clutch to complete the outfit.

Vampire Chronicles: At Last, A Moral Monster

 

Decadent Doll
Although Louis is the narrator and protagonist of the novel, I would say that Claudia is the main force that drives the plot. It is she who kept Louis and Lestat together. It is she who (somewhat) shook Louis out of his melancholic state as he was forced to act as a guardian for her. It is she who convinced Louis that they had to get rid of Lestat, and masterminded the attempt at killing Lestat. It is her death that provoked Louis into killing the coven of the Theatre des Vampires. And finally, it is the revealing of her true killer that caused Louis to retreat into a solitary existence.

Intelligent, manipulative, and remorselessly violent (even her most ardent supporter, Louis was forced to admit that she is “less human than either of us, less human than either of us might have dreamed”), Claudia’s true nature is totally contrary to her angelic and doll-like appearance of a chubby little girl with golden curls and blue eyes. Still, her adult mind showed itself in flashes of latent sexuality through, for example, her choice of clothes and jewellery (Claudia had a passion for rings and brooches “that children did not wear”), and the way she walked.

In this layout, the pink babydoll dress and the cloche straw hat reflect the empire waist dresses and bonnets that were fashionable in what would have been Claudia’s mortal lifetime (early 19th Century). The white flowers in the hat make reference to the large white bouquet of chrysanthemums she carried when she killed the family servants and had a first major clash with Louis and Lestat. The white fluffy cardigan and Mary Jane flats are contrasted with the ornate black pearl jewellery to represent the incongruity between her childish and innocent façade and the maturity and darkness of her true nature.

Vampire Chronicles: Decadent Doll

 

Eternal Passions
Love, hate and lust are hopelessly intermingled in almost all the principal relationships in the book. As a mortal, Louis was mostly enthralled by Lestat’s looks and charms. And then the entire description of Lestat turning Louis into a vampire looks as though it could be ripped out of an erotic novel. Not only was the act itself intimate, what with all the close physical contact and exchanging of large amounts of bodily fluid, Louis himself described it as being “not unlike the pleasure of passion” and that Lestat behaved in a lover-like manner. Their subsequent relationship seemed to yo-yo between extreme highs and lows. Despite Louis’ rebuffs and attempted killings of Lestat, Lestat repeatedly clawed his way back from the grave to Louis and still wanted Louis to stay with him in the end.

In the Louis/ Claudia relationship, Claudia loved Louis for his unquestioning devotion and his similar pursuit of vampiric knowledge. But she also despised him for participating in turning her into a vampire, and being “weak” as a vampire. Likewise, Louis adored Claudia for her congenial companionship but simultaneously feared her utterly conscienceless nature. Moreover, as unsettling as it may sound, Louis actually found Claudia “sensual” and described their relationship as “Father and Daughter. Lover and Lover”. Finally, their relationship is so strong that Louis was (1) willing to help out in killing Lestat as she wanted and (2) proactive enough to massacre the entire Theatre des Vampires in vengeance for her death, which are possibly the 2 most emotional responses Louis has ever had to anything.

Vampire Chronicles: Eternal Passions