Tired of the same old vampires? Check out Anne Rice's new race of undead bloodsuckers, independent of the Lestat series. Her alterna-vamp books began with Pandora, but the second of her New Tales of the Vampires, Vittorio, is truly a new beginning--a more controlled story and probably the best of her last half-dozen books.
Rice has called Vittorio her vampire version of Romeo and Juliet. The hunky Vittorio is sweet 16 and "incalculably rich" in 15th-century Italy, the epoch of the Medicis and Vittorio's favorite painter, madly passionate Filippo Lippi. Florence is to Vittorio what New Orleans is to Interview with the Vampire.
One night, Vittorio's family is butchered by vampires. The gorgeous Ursula spares Vittorio to make him her reluctant undying sweetheart. Ursula's ravishings of Vittorio recall the erotica Rice wrote under her own name and the pen names Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure.
Vittorio flees to the creepy town of Santa Maddalana, which has made a pact to sacrifice its young to Lord Florian's vampire horde. Vittorio is bent on revenge as he invades the eerie Court of the Ruby Grail (i.e. blood), as angry with the child-sacrificing humans as he is with Florian's fang gangsters. Torn between lust, murderous rage, and vampire thirst, Vittorio is one interestingly troubled soul.
Rice urges readers to enter Vittorio's world by reading the sources she embroiders, Fra Filippo Lippi and Public Life in Renaissance Florence, and to get a feel for the scary communion Vittorio sees in the Court of the Ruby Grail by listening to All Souls' Vespers. --Tim Appelo
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