A straightforward, if under-developed, ersatz Arabian Nights tale distinguished by its vocabulary and expressive turns of phrase.
After reading The Moor I was in the mood for some more “Orientalist” gothic novels, Vathek was the first Oriental Gothic novel (according to the blurb on the back) and I thought it would be quite fun and it was. It was quite short, especially by gothic novel standards only 160 pages but I think this worked in its favour. It had fewer diversions and stayed focused more closely on the plot than other novels in this genre.
The start of the book was very Orientalist in its descriptions of the pleasure palaces and harem of the Caliph. The ironic part was how he was praised by his people for his good and decedent rule and it was only the interference of the forces of evil that drove him from his palaces of luxury that caused the people and the ministers to complain. What surprised me most about this book was how very quickly the forces of darkness seduced the characters. The first task required of him was the sacrifice of 50 beautiful boys and he did this without any qualms at all. Needless to say there was very little character development within the book. Though I was quite fond of his mother who seemed to be a sorceress of some knowledge and power who was almost the exact opposite of the weak heroine. Indeed this book seemed to be without a heroine at all. The closest to a weak heroine was a young prince who was tricked into believing he had been killed and gone to hell. He was delicate and helpless and the true love of one of the girls that Vathek set his sights on.
It was short and fun, and did get a bit convoluted at times but I still enjoyed it....Continua