We again meet Louis, Lestat, and David. They are followed by the beautiful witch Merrick Mayfair, an offshoot of the Mayfair clan, with Julien Mayfair as one of her ancestors. She knew David when he was a mortal man working as a member of the Talamasca and it is through David that Louis seeks Merrick's help in resurrecting the spirit of Claudia.
This novel is a major turning point for Louis, after talking with the spirit of Claudia, called upon by Merrick, and receiving harsh words from the spirit that only confirm what the diary found in the French Quarter flat, the one Louis, Lestat, and Claudia once shared, by Jesse as narrated in The Queen of the Damned (the diary was kept in the vaults of Talamasca and retrieved by Merrick), he attempts to commit suicide by allowing himself to bake in the sun, but he doesn't burn completely. The other vampires, including Merrick, David and Lestat, find him and restore him by showering him with their preternatural blood.
Most of the novel is a rather long flashback detailing David and Merrick's adventures. Readers meet Merrick's malevolent sister, Honey Isabella or Honey in the Sunshine; Merrick's mother, Cold Sandra; and the Great Nananne, a powerful witch whose very presence is enough to frighten and instill respect in Talbot.
One notable adventure involves a journey to Central America, which Merrick is compelled to undertake by dreams of Oncle Vervain (or so she thinks). Merrick and David find the cave where Matthew had contracted a fatal disease. David is surprised at the malevolence of the spirits in the cave and conjectures that they are protecting some great treasure. Merrick leaps forward and finds the treasure: a beautiful jade mask. By looking through this mask, one can see ethereal spirits as if they were corporeal. The two Talamascans see a mysterious spirit who resembles a priest. David then falls deathly sick, though Merrick does not. The two escape the treacherous cave, with David growing weaker by the moment; he is shuffled from hospital to hospital and is eventually cured of the disease.
At the very end of the book, Merrick reveals her grand scheme. It was she who, from the very beginning, had used her potent magic to draw David and Louis inexorably towards her so that she would receive the Dark Gift of vampirism.
Because Lestat (along with Louis) has given Merrick their blood, the Talamasca Elders threaten to wage war on the vampires. David Talbot tries to placate them with a final letter, warning that Lestat's enmity is more than the Watcher society could handle. He writes, "You have made yourselves an interesting adversary to one who loves challenges, and it will require all of my considerable influence to protect you individually and collectively from the avid lust you have so foolishly aroused."
This novel builds upon a statement by David in Pandora that vampire powers have recently evolved to include the psychic powers of the human from which they were created. Previously, it was stated that a witch's powers are lost upon his or her transformation into a vampire (stemming from Maharet's recounting of her and her sister's history in The Queen of the Damned, wherein she states that while they can no longer see the spirits, they do sometimes still see ghosts). However, Merrick's human supernatural powers remain intact in her vampire form.