Anne Rice - Witching Hour

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The Chronology of the Mayfair Witches

Jul 31, 2006 (Updated Aug 7, 2006)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Well written and intensely convincing, sensual, etc. Very Anne Rice.

Cons:Long, dry in parts. Gets a little grosser than usual.

The Bottom Line: Read it if you want further clarification on the Mayfair Witches or Lasher. It's well written, but a little dense for a vacation read.


Gotta love Anne Rice. The writing is, as always, beautiful, lush, wonderfully and richly descriptive- but this is not her best work, and certainly not her most concise. Only read it if you're looking for an in-depth history about the whole Lasher/ Mayfair Witches thing, because you wind up reading this long, dry "Talamasca File" through the middle of a 1038 page book that doesn't nearly have the ending to justify the ordeal of getting to it.

Rowan Mayfair and Michael Curry are our main characters, both born in New Orleans and now living in San Francisco. They're beautiful, rich, accomplished (she's a quiet, intense neurosurgeon with a passion for saving lives, boats, and big, blue-collar guys, and he is a big, brawny, from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks guys who reads Dickens, listens to classical music, and restores old houses), and she saves him from drowning. When he comes back to life he discovers that he can get images from the past through objects when he touches them and he has the vauge memory of a near-death experience in which he agrees to some grandiose purpose and returns to his body, and, understandably traumatized by this, he proceeds to drinks himself into a stupor and wear creepy black leather gloves until he meets the wonderful, beautiful, understanding Rowen, soul mate and instantaneous love-of-his-life, and this wonderful woman is the reason he is able to sober up and proceed with his life, the discovery of his purpose. Yeah right. And Rowan, poor thing, is the adopted daughter of a thoroughly second rate father and a weak, confused mother, and, recently orphaned, she knows nothing of her extended and very troubled family through her adopted mother (actually a cousin of some sort- incest is so dominant in this story it's impossible to tell, one man fathering generations of girls, so that one's father may also be her grandfather, or great-grandfather, or both. ick) in New Orleans. She is able to sense whether or not a person will live, how they are doing internally, and she can kill with her anger, although she doesn't quite believe in her own abilities- far too scientific for that. Oh, and she falls madly in love with Michael at first site as well, and they both go tumbling off to New Orleans, him because of the visions, and her because she finds out that her biological mother has died, and decides to attend the funeral despite her promise to her adopted mother that she would never, ever go to New Orleans. They're sexually inexhaustible, get along perfectly, and constantly saying I love you- very nice fiction.

And if you've read any Anne Rice, Aaron Lightner comes into this one with a lot of development as the Talamsca agent whose purpose it is to contact and help the Mayfairs. The Talamasca is supposedly an ages-old organization with more money than God, who has been studying the supernatural and the occult, impartially and patiently, for time out of mind, and they had an agent there almost at the death of the very first Mayfair Witch. Twelve generations later, we're still going (Rowan is lucky number thirteen).

Then it gets dull and troubling, as we sit with Michael as he reads the Talamsca File on the Mayfair Witches- lots and lots of incest and insanity, spanning generations in a dry, rapid-fire way, showing us the strengthening of paranormal powers in each generation, and bringing in plenty of the dark and the ambiguous. Oh, and everyone looks like a particular ancestor- either blonde or black-haired, and invariably beautiful, even though it seems to me that this incessant inbreeding would cause some number of physical congenital defects. The characters are flatter than usual, mostly because there are so freakin' many of them- the main ones, especially the living ones, are well-developed, but you can't expect Stella, Antha, and Dierdre (more recent main witches of the family) to feel complete, much less the older ones. Still, it would make me feel better if evil Aunt Carlotta had some other dimension or facet of complexity, and I'd like some further explanation as to why on earth Marguerite kept all those severed heads upstairs- surely not only as trophies of the victims of her Lasher-assisted necrophilia, or just because Lasher managed to make weird growths occur post-mortem.

As you may be guessing now, it gets gross, and dark. We have a body in the attic, body parts and parts and parts in jars, half-preserved and stinking, dust and decay and awful smells, voodoo dolls for the summoning of ancestors stowed away in chests (though how they got bones for the dolls from ancestors that were burned, or a thousand miles removed from their female offspring at the time of death, we don't find out), benevolent poison wielding uncles, mysteriously accelerated disease, a powerful spirit toying with his abitlity to alter matter, slime and death absolutely leaking out the pores of this beautiful, idyllic, tropical background.

And this is just a pet peeve, but she needs to brush up on her architectural history. You don't put in wall to wall carpet and paint previously wallpapered walls if you're doing a restoration of this lovely antebellum house- if you're remodeling it, sure, but... oh, and the formal dining room floor of a house that old and expensive would almost certainly not have been pine, as lovely as it is, and if they did put oak over it, it'd be chock full of nail holes, needing an awful lot of putty before that simple coat of polyurethane. And the original paint scheme- the porch roofs wouldn't have been blue, they used that color to keep spirits out, and this family had its own pet ghost. More than one, after evil Aunt Carlotta started bringing them home. It seems strange to me that a family with a literally unlimited supply of money would have brick plastered over to imitate the more expensive stone, but that's six of one and half a dozen of the other, as is the use of those little fake plastic piles of "coal" that get all glowy around the bottom edges in the gas fireplaces.

And on a non-architectural note, all the rape-me-rape-me-Lasher would have left some serious bruising, which dear Rowan's husband would have noticed and been allowed to comment on, but that's not dealt with at all. So, not a kid-friendly book. Rough sex, of course, semi-explicit and some of it supernatural and/or unnatural, but I would be more concerned about the whole semi-preserved body parts, ghosts, possessions, and extremely violent deaths thing, if it came to younginsh readers.

Bottom line, Anne Rice is getting a little heavy handed with her perfectly gorgeous characters and endless supplies of money- somehow they make more sense in context with vampires, seeing as they're immortal, capable of mind reading, don't have to spend money on groceries, and are, in her work, often chosen for their looks.

On the other hand, our friend Lasher, the spirit and enduring driving force behind the Mayfair family and their obsession with one main female inheritress in each generation, is quite immortal and more than a little ambitious. If you don't want in on this plot twist, don't finish the paragraph, but he wants to become flesh (but not necessarily mortal), and accomplishes that by possessing Rowan and Michaels' four-moth old fetus, inducing labor, and kind of forcing Rowan to help his body along into a viable, adult form (so no, he doesn't seem to be an actual, natural Taltos, if you're reading the books out of order like I am).

Some of the book is devoted to the idea of hope, and more of it to the struggle between predestination and free will, and, while no new issues or arguments are really raised, it is well written and well argued, with both sides looked at but a definate bias in favor of free will.

We have another near-death experience of an interesting and voluntary way-station and the way back from hell, Lasher's redemption and offer of rebirth, but are told to disregard it. This all leads you to the odd cliff-hanger ending where Rowan is run off to Europe, and Michael is patiently waiting for things to get right again, because of course he still loves her and knows she loves him.


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