Not long ago I reviewed Stephen King’s collaboration (Sleeping Beauties) with his son, Owen, and remarked on how noticeable the difference in style was compared to SK’s solo work. Oddly enough, 2017 also saw another such partnership, this time between Anne Rice and her son, Christopher: Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra. Whereas I had never read any of Owen King’s previous novels, I was already a fan of Chris’ body of work.
Anne and Christopher have similar enough writing styles to make their collaboration appear seamless. Still, I could detect his influence and I found it to be positive (“No, Mom, we don’t need to spend two or three pages describing one room – no matter how magnificent it is.” Don’t get me wrong – I adore Anne.)
I was surprised and delighted that a sequel to The Mummy: Ramses the Damned had finally been penned after nearly a thirty year wait. While it isn’t necessary for readers to be familiar with that first book in order to enjoy the second, I would still recommend they devour it before the sequel. The Mummy is one of my favorite Anne Rice novels. It wouldn’t be a chore to start at the beginning of the tale, even if you’ve read it before.
The Passion of Cleopatra picks up right after the events of the first novel: In 1914, the mummy of Ramses the Great is discovered in Egypt due to the efforts of shipping magnate Lawrence Stratford; Ramses simply reawakens after his body is discovered, having consumed an elixir that made him immortal before his voluntary slumber beneath the desert; Ramses is transported to England and falls in love with Stratford’s daughter, Julie (who is already engaged to Alex – the son of a family friend); Ramses becomes the toast of London under the assumed name of Reginald Ramsey, and we learn that he was once the consort of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. As such, he offered her the elixir, but she refused it, pleading with him to give it instead to Marc Antony so he could create an invincible army. When Ramses refuses, Cleopatra kills herself.
The sequel has many elements of the first book – a bit of soap opera mixed with the constant rivalry, battles and inevitable betrayals of the blue-eyed immortals who are trying to track down more of the elixir, which is in the possession of Ramses II, a.k.a. Reginald Ramsey. The biggest new development is the repercussions of a rash act committed by Ramsey on a visit back to Cairo in the first book. When he sees Cleopatra’s lifeless mummy displayed in a museum, he is filled with remorse and brings her back to life with the elixir. Cleopatra goes on to wreak havoc.
In the sequel, the question as to whether the Queen has a soul is debated. At times the matter can be confusing, since her mind and memories have been linked to those of an American author named Sybil Parker. Is Sybil the reincarnation of Cleopatra?
Another major character who complicates the plot is Bektaten, the queen of an ancient African civilization who first discovered the elixir. She and her backstabbing former adviser Saqnos (who has forever been trying to steal the formula for immortality), along with throngs of other immortals, follow Ramsey back to England, where he and his fiancée Julie are to attend an engagement party. All hell breaks loose, of course. And unsurprisingly, the ending leaves enough questions unanswered to justify a trilogy.
I’d be happy to read a third installment. I’m giving Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra four out of five goblins.