I'm posting this under Interview With The Vampire because it's part of the series and, well, I dread using the Other category because it's so ambiguous D: On with the show!
The cover of my edition. Beware, Armand is going to ~*dazzle*~ you! *is bricked*
Sexuality: a LOT of sex and sexual practices: with underage boys, homosexuality, bisexuality, prostitution, sadomasochism etc. Artistically described, though.
Religion: heavy discussion of religious and philosophical themes towards the end, but with an open mind. No bigotry.
Other warnings: book!Armand is nothing like movie!Armand (from Interview With The Vampire): in the book, he is described as being 17 years old and possessing a beauty that is comparable to a girl's. So get that image of Antonio Banderas out of your mind from this point on 8D
Review: this review contains minor spoilers concerning some crucial events (only touched upon). Each section gets 2 points (2 x 5 = 10).
Rough outline: The Vampire Armand is the title character's fictional autobiography, which he tells to a visitor who follows him one night (David Talbot). He speaks about his past as a mortal and later as an immortal and the pain that came with the so-called "gift" of immortality. Throughout the story we learn about the various events and people who changed his life for the better or worse, see mentalities change before our eyes and become history as time flows, and are faced with difficult philosophical concepts that put our mind to work.
I for one was absolutely devastated when a certain thing happened between Armand and Marius. If Anne Rice were there beside me, I would have had a terrible time trying to decide whether to choke her or throw her off the balcony. It got me hooked and I really felt for the characters when reading. There are some points where the novel could have ended "satisfactorily" (happy ending), but I admire Rice for taking it further; like J.K. Rowling, she has the balls to make her characters suffer and even die, and I respect that in an author.
The plot does suffer from lack of credibility at some points, and towards the end there is even a dangerous venture into Gary Stu (the male counterpart of Mary Sue) territory, but I suppose I can let those slide because there are some valid explanations for them. However, it's better if you take these events and reasons with a grain of salt.
As for the ending, I can see it won't be everyone's cup of tea. If I had to name it, I'd say this is the perfect example of a "hate it or love it" ending; it separates the readers because of its nature itself. There are only two things that could have happened to certain characters, and you may be disappointed depending on what you were hoping for.
My rating for this section: 1 point
Originality And Credibility
Anne Rice chooses to build her vampires around the older myths, such as not being able to survive sunlight, and having supernatural abilities. Nevertheless, she abolishes some popular beliefs - vulnerability to garlic and religious objects (crucifixes). What I found interesting about this is the fact that there is no explanation as to why this happens, and the characters don't find any reasons either. This ambiguity is key to maintaining the aura of mystery that surrounds the vampires; I doubt they would be so interesting if the author came up and handed us the answers on a silver platter.
Also, we are often presented with difficult choices the characters have to make, which relate to their abilities and moral codes. Since they are immortal, vampires face the problem of being "outsiders of time"; few of them live more than a few hundred years because they get tired of living so much and commit suicide on their own free will. Armand often questions the seemingly good nature of the "dark gift" of vampirism, as he sees those around him die and leave him alone. In this aspect I would say the novel is original: the characters go through the occasional obligatory moping phase, but suck it up in the end and learn to move on.
My rating for this section: 1.5 points
Naturally, Armand is the most developed character in the book. Being a pseudo-autobiography, he cronologically details the events and, implicitly, the people (both vampire and human) that influenced his life. For example, the first ones are soldiers and sailors that kidnap him and take him to Italy; these are mainly one-dimensional characters, with the exception of one sailor who treats him better than the others (with ulterior motives in mind, though). Stereotypes abound here: the sailors are rude, dirty, lewd and possibly illiterate as well.
As for the major characters, I will only mention one, since he is the safest to name without giving away too much of the plot: Marius. Armand's master and, later on, lover, he is one of the most intriguing characters in the novel. An old vampire, he always has Armand guessing his thoughts, behavior and mood. We, as the readers, always see him through Armand's eyes and the opinions of others that he happens to share with us, so we have indirect characterization. Marius rarely speaks of his emotions, displaying them very acutely instead (as Armand describes at one point, he had lived so long he wasn't "anchored" in human feelings anymore).
A lot of the time, characters change their original place, so I can't nominate protagonists and antagonists for the whole novel. This makes said characters "round" and you may find yourself hating someone with a passion and then rooting for them, all within the span of a few pages. Thus, you can't think in black & white: no one is completely evil or completely good.
My rating for this section: 1.5 points
Coherence and Writing Style
What stroke me as strange and unappealing at first was the pagination; Anne Rice doesn't like paragraphs. You will often find yourself reading a paragraph that is a few pages long, so it can be somewhat difficult to keep track of where you left off at times and you have to skim the page for a bit. However, you get used to it after a while.
The other book I've read that was written by Anne Rice is Interview With The Vampire (the first in the series), so this was a chance for me to consolidate my opinion on her writing. Descriptions abound, but they aren't written in a way that would become an impediment to the reader; I found this a good addition because it helps those with less imagination, picture the scenes. Descriptions range from scenery to emotions to thoughts, as Armand tells of everything he experiences. The rooms in Marius' palace in Italy are described in great detail: paintings, furniture, other people living there etc., so you feel you're there and witness it with your own eyes.
Naturally, everything is presented in a subjective light. Sometimes, the novel feels more like a play, due to the various interjections used, that urge you to pay attention (such as "Oh! [insert rest of line here]"). These are more often present in the narrative part instead of the dialogue and give the impression that the characters are like dramatic actors who emphasize their lines on stage.
The story periodically jumps from the past to the present, when Armand converses with David. Also, throughout the novel, there are hints and mentions of events from the other books in the Vampire Chronicles series; however, the author chooses to provide a very short summary of them so the readers who haven't read the other books don't feel left out (for example, Armand talks about what happened to fellow vampires Louis and Claudia, event which is present in its full form in Interview With The Vampire).
My rating for this section: 1 point
Personal Opinion And Recommendations
I loved it. There were some parts that had me blushing, and I like to brag about reading hardcore yaoi, so take that as you wish. This read was an emotional rollercoaster: I felt sad, happy, melancholic, pensative, philosophical, enraged, calm; I applaud any writer who can pull this off successfully. Yes, there were some parts harder to stomach towards the end, but they don't stand out in a bad way. Rather, you can choose to ignore them since by that point you can consider the "main" action finished.
I wouldn't recommend it to those who dislike vampires, since the book is based on them and you can't ignore them while reading (duh). And while I realize no review is actually good enough to match a book's worth and to actually make someone want to read it, I'm going to give this a shot and recommend it nonetheless. In my opinion, it's a book you should read to at least have an image of Anne Rice's writing style, if not to actually become a fan of her writing.
My rating for this section: 2 points
TOTAL: 7 out of 10*
* judging from the point of view of how IMDb.com rates movies, 7 is actually quite good. At least that's how I see it.