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Merrick
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From the Mayfair Witches collection, only The Witching Hour seems to provide much of a coherent story, though the other works have considerable information on Rice's world of witchcraft, spirits, and human-like aliens as well as the Mayfair family of witches itself. The three titles are excellently read by Joe Morton, Lindsay Crouse, and Tim Curry, but it's unclear what the producer was trying to accomplish by arranging the set out of chronological order. The action in Lasher logically follows that of The Witching Hour, which ends describing the relationship of Rowan Mayfair with the spirit Lasher. Taltos seems to be a vehicle to redefine Lasher, killed off in the earlier work, as a demon who assumed the identity of Mr. Ash/St. Ashlar, a nonhuman, nonvampire being whose kind live for millennia. There's a lot of pseudomyth touched up with Catholic or voodoo imagery and laced liberally with incestuous or otherwise taboo sex: a Mayfair dynasty no doubt but with no discernible witchcraft and quite a fixation on the female breast. Horrifying, no, though quite horrible. Merrick, on the other hand, provides the listener with an excellent abridgment, read with great feeling and effectiveness by Sir Derek Jacobi. Though Merrick is a Mayfair and a witch, one will not have had to read a majority of other works Rice has written about the Mayfairs to understand what is happening in this story. Also, along with the myth and voodoo allusions, one actually gets some of what the listener would think of as witchcraft. It's decidedly spooky stuff that also explores Rice's visions of possible afterlives, the mortality of witches, and the virtual immortality of vampires. Acquire Mayfair Witches in this abridged set only if circulation patterns indicate you should. Merrick is highly recommended for adult fiction and horror collections. Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The 22nd novel from the dazzlingly popular vampire chronicler (The Vampire Lestat, The Witching Hour, etc.) brings her familiar undead characters into New Orleans's underworld of witches, and then to the jungles of Central America. Charismatic, biracial Merrick Mayfair comes from a New Orleans caste bound up with traditions of voodoo; she's also descended from the powerful Mayfair witch clan. Once a supernatural detective, now a vampire himself, narrator David Talbot took care of Merrick when she was in her teens, but hasn't seen her in years. Rice-watchers will remember Talbot and the Mayfairs, and also the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac and the girl Claudia, who now torments Louis from the afterworld. When Louis asks Talbot to raise Claudia's ghost, Talbot pleads with Merrick to use her rare talentsÄand to revisit the past they share. Can Merrick really conjure the dead? Should she? What of the unspoken erotic charge between Talbot and Merrick? What secrets lie in the magical artifacts Merrick will have to find, and then to wield? And what do they have to do with her dead parents? This volume merges several long-running plots; the first chapters sag with the weight of their exposition, and the prose seems overheated even for Rice. Vampire fans will no doubt plunge on, however; soon enough, Merrick must revisit the Guatemalan rainforest, where she traveled as a young girl, to locate a secret treasure trove of ominous ancient runes. Displaying her imaginative talents for atmosphere and suspense, Rice creates a riveting scene that shows Merrick's awesome magic at work. A potent cameo from the vampire Lestat, with whom the fabled series began, leaves hints of more dark tales to come. 750,000 first printing; BOMC and Science Fiction Book Club main selections; Literary Guild selection; QPB alternate; Doubleday Book Club featured alternate. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

What we've all been waiting for: the 2000-year history of Marius, mentor to the Vampire Lestat. At 750,000 copies, the first printing measures up to Marius's long reign. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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