Anne Rice’s Long Awaited Ramses the Damned 2 Delivers
By Sumiko Saulson
I was only 21 years old when Anne Rice released The Mummy: Ramses the Damned back in 1989. Like a lot of other enthusiastic fans of the book, I for years awaited the day when the author would keep her end-of-the-book promise that it would not be the end of Ramses’ literary world. 28 years later, the promise was finally fulfilled, with the November 21, 2017 release of Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra.
It was worth the wait.
The second Ramses the Damned installment was written with her son Christopher Rice. As a fan of both authors, there was an added element of guessing when Anne was writing an when Christopher was writing throughout the course of the book. Anne tends to use flowery, romantic and descriptive language evocative of the gothic horror genre and Victorian era literature, whereas Christopher veers more towards action, having a background in thrillers, and uses the more concise language of suspense. They did a wonderful job of blending their voices, making it difficult to tell.
The Passion of Cleopatra is character-driven. Colorful, compelling characters like Ramses the Damned, his love interest Julie Stratford, and his angry old flame, Queen Cleopatra make a comeback from the first book, along with increased roles for minor characters from the first book as well as new characters. Like the first book, it is rife with dark skinned, dark haired, supernaturally blue eyed Egyptians. If anything, there are more of these, in the form of attendants to Queen Cleopatra and the mysterious Saqnos.
Sibyl Parker, an American romance writer sets her popular adventures in Egypt is beginning to experience disturbing visions. She has dreamed of Egypt all of her life; dreams where she is Cleopatra. But recently, there has been a new, ominous tone to these visions. She occupies the life of another in these hallucinations. At first, they seem like dreams, fantasies. Then, she recognizes someone she knows to be a real person these visions: a certain Mr. Reginald Ramsey. He’s been in the news due to his proximity to the discovery of a mysterious mummy, and several strange occurrences soon afterward.
Meanwhile, an angry Cleopatra, having been awakened by Ramses in the early book, is on her own journey. Unlike most of the other immortal and long-lived Egyptians who companions who drank the elixir while living, she had the draught poured on her flesh by an impulsive and guilt-ridden Ramses. Her behavior, as a result, has a certain wild or primal element to it, which seems to be connected to the period of time she was dead.
What, then, is Sibyl’s connection to her? If both are living at once, then it doesn’t seem like it could be reincarnation. And if it is reincarnation and Sibyl possesses Cleopatra’s soul, then what is the soul, spirit, or impulse that animates the hot-headed Cleopatra?
A certain group of Egyptians, Jeneva, Callum, and Matthias among them have been given a weakened version of the drought that only keeps them alive for 200 years. Saqnos, their maker, told them not to awaken them unless something occurred to make them believe that the original elixir existed. He was too depressed by watching his spawn die in what seemed to him, the briefest of times.
All of these interesting characters are hot on the trail of Ramses the Damned, who himself, is engaged to Julie Rutherford. She, newly immortal, along with her uncle, the dashing and reticent Elliot, Earl of Rutherford, are gallivanting around the globe while Elliot avoids seeing his wife and his son, Julie’s former fiancé, in person. Elliot seems primarily interested in male romantic and sexual companionship, which may be part of why he has no desire to see his wife. He’s also afraid she’ll notice the changes immortality brings.
This is the set-up for a globe-trotting adventure that switches back and forth between its interesting primary characters before heading towards its powerful conclusion. Combining the suspense timing of Christopher Rice with the eloquent language of Anne Rice, it is fast-paced, lush, and engaging. If you enjoyed The Mummy or Tale of the Body Thief, I recommend you pick up this book.
About the Author: Sumiko Saulson is Sumiko Saulson is a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer, winner of the StokerCon Scholarship from Hell and 2nd Place Carry the Light Sci-Fi Short Story Award. Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She ranked 6th place in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest.