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|Cover artist||Henri Rousseau|
"The Snake Charmer" (1907)
|Series||The Vampire Chronicles|
|Published||October 17, 2000|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback) and audio book|
|LC Class||PS3568.I265 M48 2000|
|Preceded by||The Vampire Armand|
|Followed by||Blood and Gold|
We again meet the vampires Louis de Pointe du Lac, Lestat de Lioncourt, and David Talbot. They are followed by the beautiful witch Merrick Mayfair, an offshoot of the Mayfair clan, with Julien Mayfair as one of her ancestors. When David was a mortal man they worked together as members of the Talamasca and it is through David that Louis seeks Merrick's help in contacting the spirit of Claudia.
This novel is a major turning point for Louis. After talking with the spirit of Claudia, called upon by Merrick, and receiving harsh words from the spirit that confirm the negative feelings toward him expressed in her diary found in the French Quarter flat once shared by Louis, Lestat and Claudia, by Jesse as narrated in The Queen of the Damned (the diary was kept in the vaults of Talamasca and retrieved by Merrick), he attempts to commit suicide by exposing himself to the sun, but he doesn't burn completely. The other vampires, including Merrick, David and Lestat, find him and restore him by showering him with their preternatural blood.
Most of the novel is a rather long flashback detailing David and Merrick's adventures. Readers meet Merrick's malevolent sister, Honey Isabella or Honey in the Sunshine; Merrick's mother, Cold Sandra; and the Great Nananne, a powerful witch whose very presence is enough to frighten and instill respect in Talbot.
One notable adventure involves a journey to Central America, which Merrick is compelled to undertake by dreams of Oncle Vervain (or so she thinks). Merrick and David find the cave where Matthew had contracted a fatal disease. David is surprised at the malevolence of the spirits in the cave and conjectures that they are protecting some great treasure. Merrick leaps forward and finds the treasure: a beautiful jade mask. By looking through this mask, one can see ethereal spirits as if they were corporeal. The two Talamascans see a mysterious spirit who resembles a priest. David then falls deathly sick, though Merrick does not. The two escape the treacherous cave, with David growing weaker by the moment; he is shuffled from hospital to hospital and is eventually cured of the disease.
At the very end of the book, Merrick reveals her grand scheme. It was she who, from the very beginning, had used her potent magic to draw David and Louis inexorably towards her so that she would receive the Dark Gift of vampirism.
Because Lestat (along with Louis) has given Merrick their blood, the Talamasca Elders threaten to wage war on the vampires. David Talbot tries to placate them with a final letter, warning that Lestat's enmity is more than the Talamasa could handle. He writes, "You have made yourselves an interesting adversary to one who loves challenges, and it will require all of my considerable influence to protect you individually and collectively from the avid lust you have so foolishly aroused."
This novel builds upon a statement by David in Pandora that vampire powers have recently evolved to include the psychic powers of the human from which they were created. Previously, it was stated that a witch's powers are lost upon his or her transformation into a vampire (stemming from Maharet's recounting of her and her sister's history in The Queen of the Damned, wherein she states that while they can no longer communicate with the spirits, they do sometimes still see ghosts). However, Merrick's human witch powers remain intact in her vampire form.