the witching hour book coverA Generational Story of Evil

Author: Anne Rice

There are generations of witches and behind them is one insidious entity, carefully gathering power and information, who rules them all.

Rowan Mayfair knows nothing of her history, of the being that has crafted it. She knows only that she is adopted as an outcast from her people, sworn to never go back to her roots, to never ask questions. She knows that she has a strange power, one that has life in it but also much death. She knows that she has killed and that she is trying to repent.

Meanwhile, Michael Curry is falling into a depressive alcoholic fugue. A sensitive restorer of grand mansions, Curry’s life was going well until the fatal accident, until Rowan pulled his body from the dashing waves and resuscitated him. But he came back with a mission that he can’t remember and a terrifying power that he cannot understand. Now, everything he touches breathes its vibrant history into him, a powerful mix of emotions and visions that leave him staggered.

As time goes on, the two find their way back together. Michael is looking for answers, but in Rowan he finds love and forgiveness. Fate, however, has more in store for them. Soon an ancient order arrives on the scene with a detailed family history and devastating news. There is a being, a demon, an entity, that wants Rowan. Rowan is the key. And Rowan has broken the trust, returned to claim her family home, and walked right into the path of an unstoppable supernatural force. But Rowan and Michael are too in love, too sure of their own strengths and wisdom to see the mistake, and so they walk into the trap set for them. The question is, will they triumph over an undying, patient evil with a plan?

This is my first legitimate foray into Anne Rice. I read at a few of her Beauty books as a curious teen, mostly attracted by the endless sex scenes, although a bit horrified by some of the weirder moments of brutality. But this is not classic Rice. Not Rice in her horror element. So, when my book club proposed The Witching Hour, I was one of the first to vote for it excitedly, and I couldn’t wait until the heavy paperback showed up in the mail. This was my introduction to the female Stephen King, after all. Yet my enchantment faded as the 1,000 plus pages slowly created a weird story, half history, half hubristic alter ego daydream.

The Witching Hour could easily be two or three novels. We have the yawn-worthy Rowan and Michael love affair. Rowan is the perfect Mary Sue heroine. She is sensitive and yet aloof, enigmatic, endlessly smart and powerful, able to drive fast, live wild, yacht around the world, and handle everything with a sexy grace. Michael is her quintessential soul mate. Sensitive. Loves restoring houses. Handsome and broken, needing a strong woman to save him. It all reads like a tedious Harlequin romance, and the depthless nature of the characters leaves readers more than happy for the ancient evil, Lasher, to possess them all and get this gory party started.

And that’s the second part of the story. In the middle, we get the good bit. An ancient organization, the Talamasca, comes into town with the history of Rowan’s family, the Mayfairs. This is where the story gets more interesting, following an incestuous line of in-bred witches with no morals, no regrets, too much power, and a sardonic entity puppet mastering them behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there is no one to root for here either, as Rice’s fallen antiheros are a little too gross for us (too much of the entire raping the family and murdering the interlopers going on to make these villains a love to hate type), but it is awfully interesting and awfully horrible at the same time. There is some horror potential here and, if not that, at least something sufficiently aberrant to keep us happily rubber necking. But that all comes to an end, ultimately pointless, and we’re back with Rowan and Michael’s insipid love affair, occasionally interspersed with the old, hey-what-do-we-do-with-this-devil-like-thing-that-is-following-us motif.

And that’s when it gets crazy. Because after a thousand admittedly well written yet eye-gougingly slow pages, we know Rowan and Michael, down to their sentimental, drippy little hearts. But . . . now the plot requires a reversal, and Rowan goes off the deep end in the last fifty pages, throwing away all that shallow character building. She becomes another person, everything is off the charts, and nothing makes sense or follows all that slow, tedious build up. I admit that I was kind of curious – is this a set-up, a clever plot (surely, right?) or just a really, really bad plot pivot. I’ll probably give into my curiosity and Google what happens in the next book, but it took me months to force myself through The Witching Hour. Months of thinking about and wishing for other books. Maybe I encountered Rice, yet again, at the wrong place, but I admit that I certainly won’t be voting for anything of hers in another book club again. Glad to be done and well rid of this one. I can ultimately sum it up in one word: tedious.

– Frances Carden

Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress

Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews

Frances Carden
Latest posts by Frances Carden (see all)