Mummies, Threesomes and Russians, Oh My! Ramses the Damned: Reign of Osiris review

When The Mummy or Ramses the Damned debuted in 1989, I was just beginning my love affair with the writing of Anne Rice, having started with Queen of the Damned which had been released only a year earlier. I quickly became enamored with the mysterious Ramses, who had swallowed a secret elixir granting him immortality. Going by the pseudonym Reginald Ramsey, he quickly embarked upon a steaming hot romance with Julie Stratford. She’s the daughter of Lawrence Stratford, the British archaeologist who unearthed Ramses’ seemingly mummified body, but was sadly murdered shortly afterwards. 

The love quadrangle between Mr. Ramsey, Miss Stratford, Alex Savarell (a low-ranking noble Miss Stratford is engaged to but does not love), and a partially revived but insane and monstrous Cleopatra (Ramses’ ex, but ironically, in love with Alex now) was sort of like the supernatural Bridgerton of the late 90s. Although all of the immortal characters have supernaturally glowing blue eyes, the obvious inclusion of people of color was thrilling for people like myself, people of color who came into the Anne Rice fandom with Queen of the Damned. I had heard of Anne Rice a few years earlier, in 1985, when all of my friends in the goth community were raving about her then newly-released The Vampire Lestat (sequel to the 1976 Interview with the Vampire). I was intrigued by Akasha and other non-white vampires in QOTD

But The Mummy or Ramses the Damned was an entirely different vibe. Despite the truly terrifying scenes with Cleopatra later on in the book, it never pretended not to be a paranormal romance. Julie and Ramses’ love affair was up front and center in this novel. However, it substantially exists in the realm of horror as well, and is a fine example of horromance, the horror-romance genre. If you like paranormal romance, you’re apt to enjoy all three of the books in this series. 

Like many fans, I’d read the inscription at the end of the book, “The Adventures of Ramses the Damned Shall Continue” and was anxiously awaiting his return. I would wait another 28 years, until the release of Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra, in 2017, the first of the two books co-written by Christopher Rice. It picks up immediately after the end of The Mummy, still in the year 1914, with Ramses and Julie now engaged to be married. It introduces some new characters, notably American novelist Sybil Parker, who’s novels about Egypt seem to be inspired directly by Cleopatra’s memories. It also goes into the history of how the Elixir which granted Ramses immortality was created.

Ramses the Damned: Reign of Osiris is the third book in Anne Rice’s Ramses the Damned series, and the second one co-written by her son, Christopher Rice. It is also Anne’s final novel, as she sadly passed away on December 11, 2021. It is to the credit of both writers that the book works very smoothly and cohesively as a work, as much so as if it had been written by a single author. Furthermore, all three of the books work very well as a series, and maintain a consistent tone. While her passing makes it tempting to give Anne sole credit for this work, having read interviews with both of the Rices, and having read considerably from both of their works, I will say that Christopher’s mark is also evident on both Reign of Osiris and The Passion of Cleopatra. Most obviously, in terms of the brisker suspense/thriller type pacing. Reign of Osiris comes in at just 368 words, compared to 416 for Passion of Cleopatra and 509 pages for The Mummy. Anne Rice’s novels tend to take a more languid stroll to their conclusion, and spend more time on character development than Christopher’s do. 

In The Reign of Osiris, Queen Bektaten (first introduced in Passion of Cleopatra) is calling together all of her subjects in the months leading up to World War I. Although her intentions seem pure, even protective, not all of the immortals have agreed to be her subjects. In fact, Ramses is fairly bristling at Bektaten’s haughty manner, and Cleopatra suspects this is secretly a plot to execute her.  

Anne Rice’s recent death added an initial tinge of sadness to the reading of Bektaten’s letters for me. Without knowing who knew what, it is still hard not to compare  Bektaten’s grand and protective pronouncements to the younger immortals, whom she seems to hold in some maternal regard, to Anne Rice’s own social media posts to her Facebook fandom over the years, her self-styled People of the Page. In fact, I will say it is entirely impossible to divorce the reading of the work from grief about her passing if you’re a devoted fan. But Bektaten is definitely not Anne, and very soon, I find myself sympathizing with Ramses’ aching desire to rebel against her, as she starts to seem like a nag. Despite Ramses’ understandable feelings, everyone except he and Cleopatra seem to be madly in love with the otherwise charming Bektaten.

While Bektaten is busy composing her four-page missives, scolding the other immortals like little children, and warning them not to engage in the upcoming human war, a bunch of Russians who don’t seem to know what they’re dealing with are trying to assassinate everyone who cared about Lawrence Stratford. Fortunately, most of them are immortal now, and not in any immediate danger by the mysterious arcane magic that the Russian assassins have been toying with.

When they are not being attacked by Russians, the immortals are having hot threesomes. Cleopatra has patched things up with Sybil Parker after some initial trepidation in the second book, and is now sharing her bed, and Alex Savarell as well as her memories with the American novelist. Bektaten shares her bed with her sexy guards, Enamon and Aktamu, who are partners, which doesn’t stop Aktamu from eyeballing Elliot Savarell, who is eyeballing Aktamu and possibility Bektaten. If you’re a fan of the paranormal romance genre, none of this surprises you. 

The Russians, meantime, have some fancy necklaces that they can use to animate statues of people, and get them to go on murderous rampages. No one is really sure how they are doing this. Okay, well, maybe not noone. Someone seems to know something about it. Our hero, Ramses. But for reasons that are not yet clear, he isn’t telling anybody.

~ by Sumiko Saulson on March 29, 2022.

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