Friday, November 24, 2017

Book review: Ramses the Damned by Anne and Christopher Rice


Title: Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra
Author: Anne Rice and Christopher Rice
Publication date: 21st November 2017
Publisher: Anchor Books
Genre: Fantasy
Source: ARC from publisher

Description:
Ramses the Great, former pharaoh of Egypt, is reawakened by the elixir of life in Edwardian England. Now immortal with his bride-to-be, he is swept up in a fierce and deadly battle of wills and psyches against the once-great Queen Cleopatra. Ramses has reawakened Cleopatra with the same perilous elixir whose unworldly force brings the dead back to life. But as these ancient rulers defy one another in their quest to understand the powers of the strange elixir, they are haunted by a mysterious presence even older and more powerful than they, a figure drawn forth from the mists of history who possesses spectacular magical potions and tonics eight millennia old. This is a figure who ruled over an ancient kingdom stretching from the once-fertile earth of the Sahara to the far corners of the world, a queen with a supreme knowledge of the deepest origins of the elixir of life. She may be the only one who can make known to Ramses and Cleopatra the key to their immortality--and the secrets of the miraculous, unknowable, endless expanse of the universe.

My thoughts: 
The book opens with a preface that sums up some key events that happen before the start of the story, and touches on some of the main characters. I found it very odd that some of the book reads like a sequel, while large portions of it don't, and nowhere on the proof did it suggest it was a sequel. Goodreads, however, says that it is book two of the series. I think it worked fine to read it without having read the first book, but it's something to keep in mind.

Ramses, former ruler of Egypt, is an immortal and has recently woken up in 1914 after hibernating for hundreds of years. He's heading to England with his fiance for an engagement party, but both of them are troubled by thoughts of Cleopatra. Ramses used the magical elixir that gave him immortality to resurrect her mummified body, but she ran away and now they fear she'll come after them and attack them. Added in to the mix are two other immortals who are far older, who have yet to meet Ramses but have heard rumours about a mummy coming to life and guess that he might be immortal.

I liked that none of the characters are 100% likeable - they're all flawed in some ways, and make dreadful assumptions about each other and the motives of other people. Ramses and his fiance Julia both presume that Cleopatra is mad and that she means them harm. Cleopatra thinks Ramses hates her and wants to kill her. It made me want to shake them sometimes and tell them they were being silly, but it also made the multiple points of view in the story more interesting to read, because you get to know the true motivations and also see how their actions are misinterpreted.

The writing style is quite old fashioned. In some ways this fit with the time: the way Julia and another character, Sibil, narrate their parts makes sense, as they're born into the early 1900s. At other times I felt like there was just too much description when I wanted to get on with the action of the story.

It's an interesting story that looks at some of the moral and philosophical problems of these immortal creatures, how characters may or may not change over time, and how both humans and immortals are affected and changed by their experiences. I enjoyed the story a lot, even though it wasn't as fast-paced as some books, and I'd definitely like to read the next book in the series to see what happens next. Although some plot threads are left unresolved, the book does have a satisfying conclusion. I'm giving Ramses the Damned 6 out of 10.

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