Lestat is now Prince of the Vampires, struggling to bring organization to the scattered numbers and stop the taking of “innocent blood.” He has also been possessed by an entity called Amel, an ambivalent relationship, because both host and parasite wish to be free of each other. The only problem is that Amel exists to some extent in all vampires; if something happens to Lestat, all experience it and for Amel to leave his body, all vampires would cease to exist.

Followers of the Vampire Chronicles will be familiar with the characters and events leading up to this novel, but for the uninitiated, the old adage, “You can’t tell the players without a program,” will ring more than true. In spite of the insertion of a History of the Blood Genesis and a mini-dictionary of Undead argot before the novel and two appendices afterward, consisting of a Dramatis Personae and a chronological bibliography of the series, it’s still difficult to tell who’s who a good deal of the time without continually referring to these listings.

The novel is divided into three parts, with Part I and most of Part III, having the most “action.” In the rest, the vampires simply congregate and discuss the problem, stating and re-stating it in long discourses. Indeed, there’s very little actual “vampiric” activity going on; replace the vampires with ordinary mortals and this could simply be an aliens-among-us science fiction novel. In some places, it gets so philosophical as to become bogged in near-metaphysicality.

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis may encourage those any dropped the series to return to read the other stories. Buried within the verbiage and reiterations there’s a message—if only it hadn’t been delivered quite so pedantically. It does ask one question that is both easy and difficult to answer: Who says you have to be human to have a soul?

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis will undoubtedly win Rice new fans and welcome back old ones but others may find it confusing and wordy.