I recently went on vacation to New Orleans with my family and as I was planning the trip, I thought about what might be a good book to read to get me into the New Orleans’ mood. Then I remembered I had a hardcover copy of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice on my bookshelf. Someone had given it to me as a gift years ago and I had never gotten around to reading it. I knew it was set in New Orleans, so I figured I’d give it a go. I had read several of Rice’s vampire novels and enjoyed them, and I had also met Ms. Rice at a book signing where she signed my copy of Tale of the Body Thief. Needless to say, I had fairly high expectations.
There are things about the book that I enjoyed and found interesting, and there are things that just did not work for me. To begin with, the book is long (weighing in around 1000 pages), and the pace was dreadfully slow at times. I kept finding myself wondering why it was taking so long to tell this story. I genuinely feel that this could have been told in 600 pages, that much of what is there was superfluous. Then, when I finally finished, the ending left me hanging. Come to find out this is only the first book of a trilogy (Lasher and Taltos are the two subsequent books). I have to say that I am personally getting tired of trilogies. I’m beginning to think it is a ploy by the publishers to sell more books. To back up my argument, Nook offers a free e-book every Friday through Facebook. Guess what. Usually these freebies are the first books in a series.
Alright, let me climb down from the soapbox and talk about what I liked about the book. First off, the descriptions of the Garden District were amazing. While I was in New Orleans, I stayed in an old bed and breakfast in the Garden District and Rice’s depiction of the area is magnificent. She perfectly captures the unique blend of southern grandeur and decay which is evident in the area. The scenes that are set in the Lafayette Cemetery stirred vivid recollections of what it was like to walk among the crumbling above-ground tombs.
The deepest connection that I felt while reading the book was with the Talamasca, an ancient order that dedicated themselves to the study of the supernatural and who maintained historical records of people and events. As a bibliophile with a particular love for old books, I could not help fantasizing about spending my days surrounded by aged leather books, carefully turning and reading the brittle pages.
We who live in a world of books and crumbling parchment, of flickering candles and eyes sore and squinting in the shadows, have always our hands on history. (P. 259)
Prominent throughout the book is the theme that science and the occult are closely related. I found this interesting, particularly when you consider that early scientists were labeled as practitioners of mystical arts and persecuted, and also that recent discoveries in the area of theoretical physics support certain occult beliefs and practices, particularly the discovery of how consciousness and human thought affects subatomic particles.
Science has always been the key. Witches were nothing but scientists, always. Black magic was striving to be science. Mary Shelley saw the future. Poets always see the future. And the kids in the third row of the theater know it when they watch Dr. Frankenstein piece the monster together, and raise the body into the electrical storm. (P. 889)
So, to sum up, while I didn’t hate the book and there were certainly things about the book that I enjoyed and found fascinating, I can’t say that I loved it. It definitely did not impress me enough to make me want to read two more books to complete the trilogy. For now, I’m going to say that I am done with the Mayfair Witches. I am curious, though, whether any of you have read the subsequent books and what your thoughts are regarding them. Let me know. I may be swayed.