The Queen of the Damned (1988) is the third novel of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles series. It follows Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat. This novel is a continuation of the story that ends in a cliffhanger in The Vampire Lestat and explores the rich history and mythology of the origin of the vampires, which dates back to Ancient Egypt.
- Narrator(s): Lestat de Lioncourt
- Time: Ranges from Ancient Egypt -1985
- Place: Various places worldwide.
The plot of The Queen of the Damned is extensive and complex. The first part of the book tracks several different people over the same period of several days. We are introduced to several new mortals and vampires: Pandora, Jesse, Maharet, Khayman, Eric, and David Talbot. We also see several characters from the earlier books: Armand, Daniel (the "boy reporter" of Interview with the Vampire), Marius, Louis, Gabrielle and Santino. Each of the six chapters of the first part tells a different story about a different person or group of people. Two things unify these chapters: a series of dreams about red-haired twin sisters who live in ancient times and are witches, and the fact that some powerful being is killing vampires around the world by making them spontaneously combust.
Pandora and Santino go to rescue Marius, who has been telepathically calling for help and trying to warn others of some great approaching danger. As they arrive at his home in the far north, they find him buried under ice. They learn that Akasha has been awakened by Lestat's rock music. She has destroyed her husband Enkil and hatched a plot to rule the world. It is Akasha who has been killing the other vampires, trying to reduce the undead to a small number of vampires totally loyal to her.
The second part of the book takes place at Lestat's concert. Jesse is mortally injured and is taken to Maharet's Sonoma compound, where she is made into a vampire and where the rest of the vampires from the first part congregate. The only missing ones are Akasha and Lestat. She has kidnapped him and takes him on a whirlwind tour of the world, inciting women to rise up and kill the men who have oppressed them and trying to convince him to be her consort.
The third portion of the book takes place at Maharet's home in Sonoma, in the middle of a giant forest. There Maharet tells the story of Akasha, and the red haired twins, who are in fact Maharet and her sister, Mekare, to Pandora, Jesse, Marius, Santino, Armand, Daniel, Louis and Gabrielle. Also present are Mael and Khayman, both of whom already know the story.
In the fourth part of the book, Akasha confronts the gathering of vampires at Maharet's compound. There she lays down her plans and offers the gathering of vampires a chance to be her 'angels' in her New World Order. If they refuse, she says, she will kill them. The others state that they will not join her, and before she can make good on her promise to destroy them, Mekare bursts in and kills her, severing her head with a swift movement of her hand. Mekare then extracts Akasha's brain and heart and devours them, the only way to save the remaining vampires, becoming the new Queen of The Damned and destroying Akasha for good.
Shaken, the vampires leave Maharet's compound to gather at Armand's resort, called "Night Island," (according to Anne Rice, inspired by Fire Island) in Florida and recover. Over time they disband, various vampires going their separate ways. At the end of the book, Lestat takes Louis to see David Talbot in London. After a brief visit they take off into the night, an incensed Louis and his angry words filling Lestat with glee.
The 2002 film deviated from much of this storyline and killed off some of the characters, including Pandora. In the novel, none of those gathered at Sonoma died apart from Akasha. The characters of Mekare, Santino, Daniel, Louis, Gabrielle, and Eric don't even show up in the movie. It also provided some of the backstory that in the books is given in The Vampire Lestat, for instance Lestat's meeting of Marius and discovery of Those Who Must Be Kept. However, this backstory is also significantly altered. For instance, Marius, not Magnus, is Lestat's maker in the movie.
The Origin of Vampires
The Queen of the Damned, the novel, deals with the origins of vampires themselves. The mother of all vampires, Akasha, begins as an Egyptian queen many thousands of years ago. During this time two powerful witches (Maharet and Mekare) live in the mountains of an unnamed region. Their village is destroyed and they are taken hostage by the king and queen, who desire their knowledge. All the while, there is a bloodthirsty spirit called Amel who continually comes to the witches to ask if they need help, although they prudently decline the offer. When they tell Akasha something that she does not want to hear, she is horrified, and condemns the twins. Enkil then orders Khayman to rape the twins in his stead to prove they hold no power, in front of the court. Afterward they are cast out into the desert. While making her way back home with a pregnant Maharet, Mekare curses the king and queen secretly with the bloodthirsty spirit. Eventually this spirit inflicts such torment on Akasha and Enkil that they call the sisters back and beg for their aid.
However, a number of conspirators have been plotting against the young king. Planning to say that the spirit killed the monarchs, the conspirators assassinate the royal couple in their possessed house. When Akasha dies, the evil spirit sees her soul starting to leave the body, but before it does, the evil spirit wraps itself around her soul and pulls it back into her body. The newly arisen Akasha gives her king the Dark Gift to save his life; she also turns Khayman into a vampire. She orders the witches to be mutilated -- Maharet loses her eyes and Mekare her tongue. Afterward, Khayman comes to them and makes them into vampires as well. The three flee, but are caught by Akasha's soldiers. Khayman escapes but Maharet and Mekare are put in two separate coffins which are then set afloat on two separate bodies of water. They do not see each other again until the events of The Queen of the Damned.
Mekare has gone into the ground for these many centuries, while Maharet goes back to her daughter to watch over her, and her descendants. Maharet's daughter's children become what is known as the Great Family, the progeny of the Daughters of Maharet. They are traced maternally, and there are members belonging to every culture, religion, ethnicity, and race. The Great Family represents all humanity and shows the vampires what, exactly, Akasha would be destroying by creating her New World Order.
It becomes clear that as the source of all vampires, Akasha and Enkil are connected to all of the undead by the blood and spirit that all vampires share. In an experiment by the first Keeper, Akasha and Enkil are exposed to sunlight when they are several thousand years old. This merely gives them a tan. However, all other vampires are wounded, and many of the weakest die, thus confirming the legend that anything that harms Akasha will also directly affect all of her progeny.