I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of Anne Rice’s upcoming novel, “The wolves of midwinter,” and was tempted to dive right into it but I decided that I should brush up on the first book of the series first so I decide to re-read the first book in the series first. I had read “The wolf gift” when it first came out around a year ago but I had never reviewed it for various reasons and did not remember it all that well. A novel by Anne Rice is always a treat whether it is a first read or another trip into familiar territory so I opened the novel again with great anticipation on what I would rediscover within the cover.
Reuben Golding is a reporter that does not know what awaits him when he takes an assignment to go to an isolated mansion and to interview its owner, the beautiful Marchent. There is an instant connection between the two and they mutually seduce each other. They not only become lovers in that night but soul mates as well. Their brief encounter ends in tragedy, however, as Marchent is murdered and Reuben attacked and left for dead. Reuben survives, though, and finds himself changing. Reuben’s attacker was not human and unwittingly passed something along to Reuben. Reuben has received the wolf gift, later called the chrism, and has become more than human.
Reuben finds his senses heightened and his body growing stronger. Even stranger is that he seems to be drawn to those with evil intent and overcome with an uncontrollable urge to not only stop them but to slay them. This leads to the growing legend of the Man Wolf in the San Francisco Bay Area as Reuben kills criminals to stop their crimes. Even while Reuben the journalist writes articles on the events, Reuben the young wolf man knows that he must remove himself from society and he retreats to Nideck Point, the mansion where it all started and which had been left to him by Marchent. Reuben is left looking for answers as to the meaning of the wolf gift with the help of Laura, a local tour guide that he falls in love with. Reuben can only hope that he learns to control the gift before it can get out of control and consume him.
“The wolf gift” is an example of Anne Rice at her finest. This is a sweeping epic tale of Reuben’s transformation from a human into something that is much more than human and his search for the truth and meaning behind this transformation. The story is character driven and those characters are diverse and compelling to allow Rice to explore the story from multiple perspectives. Rice builds the story with a deft touch by introducing the characters slowly throughout the novel. Reuben’s struggle to come to terms and understand the changes that were occurring to him were heightened for me as Reuben made small strides on his own through self-exploration of the gift as well as his moral and philosophical search for answers with the help of his brother Jim, a priest. I found myself wanting to demand answers along with Reuben and even beginning to despair in finding these answers when Rice, showing her mastery of the narrative, steps in with the answers (or at least some of them) as the novel drew toward and end and left me wanting for even more at the end of this lengthy novel.
I would expect that there could be some criticism of the novel that it is somewhat reminiscent of the Vampire Chronicles but I feel that is one of the books strengths. While I have enjoyed everything that Rice has written, this novel took me back to the beginning of my relationship with Rice’s work. This is an epic novel that is full of gothic themes and is based on characters that are uniquely human even while they are not. Reuben is a werewolf just as Louis was a vampire but both are characters that are so real that the reader can imagine being in the same room as them. Reuben is not a werewolf that runs through the countryside during the full moon killing everything in sight but is a being in his own right with his own faults and failings just as the reader is. “The wolf gift” is almost as good as “An interview with the vampire with the one missing element being a character that is as compelling and transcendent as Lestat. The werewolf has been a relatively missing mythical creature in modern literature (at least in good modern literature) and Rice brings her touch to this legend with the hand of a master. If you have not read this book yet, then you are missing out and should do yourself a favor and catch up on this new saga before the second book is released next month.
Look for my review of “The wolves of midwinter” in a week or two and follow me on Twitter @josenher.