Nearly 30 years ago, Anne Rice promised the world that the adventures of her immortal pharaoh, Ramses, would continue. With the release of Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra, she has finally kept this promise with the help of her son, Christopher Rice. This new installment is complex, sensual and thought-provoking. Although it takes place only weeks after the events of The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned, this book is easy for new readers to pick up even if they haven’t read the 1989 novel—Anne and Christopher Rice have included a prologue with all the information you need.
The book opens days after the monstrous Cleopatra’s supposed death in a fiery collision with a train. Julie Stratford and Elliott Savarell, Earl of Rutherford, celebrate their new immortal life in Venice with Ramses. Far away in North Africa, a mysterious woman awakes, startling her nurses and doctors. Cleopatra survived, but she is losing her memory. Her only hope of recovery it is to coerce Ramses into giving her more of the elixir that made her immortal. In the background, greater forces are at work as an ancient queen and her advisor-turned-adversary take notice of the new immortals and pull them into an age-old struggle over just who should have control over the miraculous elixir. These disparate threads come together to make a story far grander than Ramses’s debut, but just as compelling.
Like any good book about immortality, Ramses the Damned leaves us with unanswerable questions. What does it mean to have a soul? Is it power that corrupts, or does power simply expose those who were already corrupt? How could any person bear the loneliness of being immortal? These questions work best when Anne and Christopher Rice make the reader struggle with the complications of immortality and power. In the few moments they try to more directly explain, some of the magic of what a book like this can do is lost, but not for long. The authors are adept at hanging the answer just out of reach. Even when you think you have been given an answer, they leave you room for doubt.
Anne and Christopher Rice have set up a new world to explore in this sequel. And if you are willing to take your time and appreciate the that world’s complexity, you will be rewarded. Ramses’ world is so much wider than it was first imagined, so much deeper. This second entry into their universe makes it clear that Ramses, Julie and their new, mysterious companions have much more to offer.