Anne Rice is one of the most prolific and celebrated authors of the horror and gothic genres of her generation, if not arguably of all time. Nearly three decades after she released The Mummy to both commercial and critical adoration, Rice has teamed with her son Christopher (a successful novelist in his own right) to release the long awaited follow up to the story of Ramses the Great, former pharaoh of Egypt, who was awoken several years after his mummification to find himself living – albeit immortally - in Edwardian England.
It’s not essential to have read the first installment to enjoy this sequel as the Rice duo do a solid job of setting the scene early on, although it’s worth giving the original a read if you haven’t already. In this follow up, Ramses – now going by the name Reginald Ramsey – isn’t so much damned as he is surprisingly content, but that feeling doesn’t last for long.
Engaged to Julie (fans of Julie’s ex Alexander will be pleased to see he also returns, throwing the couple a lavish engagement party) and settling into Edwardian society, it isn’t long before an infamous figure from Ramses past makes a stunning return. Cleopatra (yes, that one) is resurrected with the elixir of life but in contrast to her former paramour, she is struggling with the maddening sensation of knowing the significance of her former status, even if there are several holes in her memory that leave her feeling incomplete. Ramses and Julie learn that Cleopatra may have survived the events of the first book quite early on, and her looming presence casts an anticipatory shadow across the rest of the story until their showdown. But, Cleopatra isn’t the one thing that threatens Ramses newfound happiness. Other figures from his past are also alive, nurturing long held grudges that come to a head in classic-Rice style confrontations that liven up the authors’ explorations into the character’s backstories and motivations, which are detailed more heavily here than in previous works.
The plot isn’t easy going – there are plenty of new characters to keep up with, but overall this is a hugely enjoyable follow-up that proves without doubt that good things come to those who wait.
RAMSES THE DAMNED: THE PASSION OF CLEOPATRA / AUTHOR: ANNE RICE, CHRISTOPHER RICE / PUBLISHER: ANCHOR BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW