** spoiler alert **
My star rating for this would actually be 3 1/2 stars, not 4.
I read Anne Rice's original Vampire trilogy years ago, and I was always curious to learn more about the character Armand. Only later did I discover that Anne wrote a book about his story!
In many ways, this book is similar to all the other Anne Rice novels I have read. The plot, such as it is, takes a while to get going. Sometimes Anne gets stuck in descriptions. On the other hand, those descriptions are quite beautiful. She has a talent for writing very intense scenes, scenes that suck you in and don't let go. Scenes you remember years after you read the book. Her characters are memorable. Some you love, some you hate, some you don't quite get.
This book, of course, is from the perspective of Armand (actually his third name in the book). One would have to read the other Vampire Chronicle novels to get a complete picture of this character. Forever the boy prince, Armand comes across as strong-willed, curious, and independent. His looks are quite deceiving. There's one more part to his persona that comes across very strongly in this book - his faith. Anne Rice is not hesitant to make her undead characters face religion head-on. They are not quite the demons they seem to be.
The characters are what I like best about this novel. Marius is probably the most interesting. He knows so much, has such power, such love, such appreciation for beauty. He has motivations known only to himself.
Armand's "children," Benji and Sybelle, are also quite captivating. Their story is tragic and powerful.
Armand himself is of less interest because his is the narrator of the tale. The hints of his past, though, are quite fascinating. Lestat is only a minor character in this one, and that is perhaps for the best.
My favorite part of this novel is Armand's vision of heaven when he nearly dies as a mortal. It is unique, beautiful, and powerful.
I could have done without some of the more pornographic scenes, but Anne thankfully leaves those behind once Armand becomes immortal.
If you liked Anne Rice's other novels, you'll probably enjoy this one.