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by Anne Rice

Review by Abby Goldsmith, 2003

Ever since Memnoch the Devil, I've become disenchanted with Anne Rice, and I stopped reading her books after the dull Vampire Armand.  But rave reviews of this one persuaded me to give it a try.

Rice has regained the page-turning pace of her earlier novels.  I was mesmerized by the main protagonist, Tarquinn Blackwood, and his story, and I had to restrain myself from finishing the book in one night. Unfortunately, the ending was a disappointment.  The tense relationships that were cultivated during most of the novel were resolved in a way that seemed anticlimatic and unsatisfactory.  Instead of concluding with a more mature character (I truly hoped that Tarquinn Blackwood would grow up and learn from his errors), the point of the book seems to be something like:  "It's great to be a multi-billionaire immortal with powers to read minds and fly. Then you can do whatever you'd like."  (That was not a spoiler, by the way; it's told within the first chapter, and one can surmise it from the back cover blurb.)

It's still a book worth reading.  Rice took a huge leap forward, and instead of merely hinting that her vampires are bisexual or gay, she's finally allowed one to come out of the closet.  Even more of a leap forward (in my humble opinion):  This book features some genuine antagonists.  Yes, bad guys.  In an Anne Rice novel.  We haven't seen one of those since, oh, say, Tale of the Body Thief, which was incidentally the most recently published Rice book I truly enjoyed.  The antagonists in Blackwood Farm are painted in a sympathetic light--their motives make their actions almost condonable--but they're cruel enough so that I was rooting for them to die.  One thing I've always liked about Rice is her talent for blurring the line between good and evil, and she did that beautifully here.  Tarquinn Blackwood has a few rather severe personality flaws, and that makes him all the more human, and interesting, and I liked him in spite of his tendency to act like a spoiled little girl with the vocabulary of an English lord.

In closing, I'm going to gripe about the tone of the novel, which seemed to idealize and condone matters such as murder, incest, bribery, and sexual libido in children.  At the same time, the tone was mildly squirmish about matters pertaining to masturbation and homosexuality.  Some readers admire Rice for so boldly calling our modern ethics into question and for potentially taking us outside our comfort zones, but I feel that she has repeated these themes too often in her books, and my respect for her protagonists has deteriotated because of their cloned morality.  The distinction between the personalities of Tarquinn, Goblin, Lestat, Merrick, Aunt Queen, Mona, Tommy, and Nash vary only slightly.  They all have vastly different backgrounds, yet they view the world through similar eyes.  I feel that the novel would have been stronger if they did not all stand on the same blurry piece of moral ground.