By Anne Rice, adapted by Colleen Doran (Innovation)
Usually I’m a big advocate of the purity of original material over adaptations – never ask my opinions on movies made from comics, for example – but every so often a piece of reworked work transcends not only its origins but even the source material itself.
Such a gem is the Colleen Doran interpretation of a short Anne Rice vampire tale which was first published in Redbook in 1982 tenuously attached to the author’s ponderous Vampire Lestat universe but set in England in the 14th and 19th centuries.
1888: Richard and Julie Rampling are travelling to the country seat they have jointly inherited on the passing of their father. The journey is tainted with trepidation and apprehension as their sire made them swear on his deathbed to have the estate razed to the ground.
As the train brings them closer they reminisce on odd events that have occurred over the years, and on arriving at the beautiful manse their hesitation in executing the last wish increases. The mere thought of obliterating such a serene and beautiful setting is appalling whilst getting rid of the many generations of retainers who still service Rampling Gate is too painful to countenance. Yet their father was adamant: the house is a place of hidden horror and must be eradicated.
As their fact-finding mission proceeds the seductive lure of the house works its magic on Julie and even Richard feels the ancient call and struggles to comprehend why his obligation must result in loss of such a wondrous and compelling inheritance. A sensitive girl with aspirations to be a writer, Julie is inspired by the majestic environment but when her brother uncovers some old journals she becomes consciously aware of an ancient presence that has permeated and protected the estate for half a millennium.
Moreover the undying master has made his desires and intentions appallingly clear…
Slow and moody, this somewhat shallow tale is elevated to glittering heights by the chromatic dazzle of Doran’s artwork which treats the pages as brilliant, impossibly perfect concoctions reminiscent of stained glass window designs. All trace of terror is subdued by the inevitable culmination of Julie’s fascination with the hidden creature and the upbeat (at least for a vampire romance story) conclusion makes this slim book more dream than nightmare.
Impressive, understated and effectively brief, Master of Rampling Gate is a lost delight for those dark winter nights and one no fantasy fan will care to miss.
™ & © 1991 Anne O’Brien Rice. Cover art © 1991 John Bolton. Adaptation and interior art 1991 Innovation Corp. All rights reserved.