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At the center is the beautiful, unconquerable witch, Merrick. She is a descendant of the gens de colors libres, a cast derived from the black mistresses of white men, a society of New Orleans octaroons and quadroons, steeped in the lore and ceremony of voodoo, who reign in the shadowy world where the African and the French--the white and the dark--intermingle. Her ancestors are the Great Mayfair Witches, of whom she knows nothing--and from whom she inherits the power and magical knowledge of a Circe.
Into this exotic New Orleans realm comes David Talbot, hero, storyteller, adventurer, almost mortal vampire, visitor from another dark realm. It is he who recounts Merrick's haunting tale--a tale that takes us from the New Orleans of the past and present to the jungles of Guatemala, from the Mayan ruins of a century ago to ancient civilizations not yet explored.
Anne Rice's richly told novel weaves an irresistible story of two worlds: the witches' world and the vampires' world, where magical powers and otherworldly fascinations are locked together in a dance of seduction, death, and rebirth.
Review: Just when you thought it was safe for a bloodsucker to go out in the dark in New Orleans, along comes Merrick Mayfair, a sultry, hard-drinking octoroon beauty whose voodoo can turn the toughest vampire into a marionette dancing to her merry, scary tune. In Merrick, Anne Rice brings back three of her most wildly popular characters--the vampires Lestat and Louis and the dead vampire child Claudia--and introduces them to the world of her Mayfair Witches book series.
It is Louis who brings about the collision of the fang and voodoo universes. Louis made Claudia a vampire in Rice's classic Interview with the Vampire, in which she was destroyed, and now he's obsessed with raising her ghost to make amends and seek guidance from the beyond. (Claudia physically resembles Rice's young daughter who died of a blood-related illness. Rice nearly died of a diabetic coma in 1998, and writing Merrick turned her excruciating recovery into an exhilarating burst of creativity).
Vampire David Talbot lobbies Merrick to call Claudia's spirit and slake Louis's guilt, but Talbot winds up in the grip of an obsession with the witch. You see, Talbot, unlike most vampires, lived 70 years as a human, so his sexual response to humans is still as strong as his blood thirst. Merrick can cast spells to make men crave her, and Talbot is tormented. After she reads his palm, he muses, "I wanted to take her in my arms, not to feed from her, no, not harm her, only kiss her, only sink my fangs a very little, only taste her blood and her secrets, but this was dreadful and I wouldn't let it go on."
The secrets of Merrick are dark and sensuous, but the book is a romp animated by Rice's feeling of coming back to life through the magic of a literary outpouring. The narrative flashes back to the past, to an Indiana Jones-ish adventure in a Guatemalan cave, and to scenes from many other Rice novels. It may be helpful to read Merrick with the Rice-approved guidebooks The Vampire Companion and The Witches' Companion at hand.
After many books, Rice's grand Vampire Chronicles tale was in peril of getting long in the tooth. Merrick Mayfair's magic represents an infusion of fresh blood. --Tim Appelo
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