Title: Hannibal Rising (Hannibal Lecter #4)
Author: Thomas Harris
My Rating: ★★1/2
Goodreads Summary: “Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck. He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him. Hannibal’s uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle’s beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki. Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal. With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever to be admitted to medical school in France. But Hannibal’s demons visit him and torment him. When he is old enough, he visits them in turn. He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death’s prodigy.”
I really enjoyed seeing Hannibal as a child and getting more of an understanding for how he turned into a monster. Through seeing the beginning of his life, it is clearer the trauma he experienced and how that could lead someone down a dark path. (Admittedly the path is not usually as dark as Hannibal’s). However, anyone who experienced the kind of trauma Hannibal did as a small child would have difficulties later in life, which makes Hannibal a more sympathetic character. Although there was an aspect of this in the last book, Hannibal, this novel shows Hannibal having a purpose for his violence. He often doesn’t, or doesn’t in a way that makes any reasonable sense to anyone else, but Hannibal wants revenge on those who hurt the people he loves. It makes his character more relatable, as readers can understand the strong want to protect those they love.
Hannibal Rising was by far my least favorite book in the series, mostly because it was boring. There were some great scenes, but parts of it just felt too slow. At times there was too much detail or it was repetitive, especially at the beginning. Overall, it was just a lot less compelling. Additionally, Lady Murasaki is sexualized throughout the novel in a way other women are not. She’s literally described as exotic in the book summary. On one hand she is like a mother figure to Hannibal, and I liked the bond they had (until later in the book), but she is discussed in mostly sexual ways and through her relationships with men. But again, Harris often writes sort of one dimensional female characters.
I will note that Harris was sort of forced into writing Hannibal Rising under threat of losing his rights to the character Hannibal Lecter by the film producer, Dino De Laurentis. Given that he did not want to write the novel and was being pressured, I understand why it was not as good as the rest of the novels in the series.