Everyone has their favorite authors who have thrilled them with stories throughout the years. For me, my love of the horror genre was born early one by a couple of authors and their varying styles of crafting a tale of horror the seemed real to me. One of these authors for me was, and still is, Anne Rice. Rice has a unique way of taking classic horror themes and monsters, such as vampires and witches, and crafting them into something completely new and different while grounding them in reality in a way that had never been done before. When I first heard that Rice was going to be writing a series of novels about werewolves, I was thrilled that she would be turning her skills toward reworking this classic horror monster. “The Wolf Gift” kicked off the series last year and was everything that I had hoped it would be. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy for the second book in the series, “The Wolves of Midwinter” which is scheduled to be published next month, and was quick to dive into the story to see what Rice had in store for the characters that she has so stunningly introduced the world to in “The Wolf Gift.”
The novel begins with Ruben and the group of the Morphenkinder gathered at Nideck Point and planning the celebration of Yule in the old manner. Led by the vision of Felix, the group plans to reinvigorate the area while once again making it their own by investing in the town and throwing a Midwinter celebration like the town has never seen before. This will be a grand and public celebration of the Christmas season to please the town and people from around the area while allowing the Morphenkinder to celebrate the season in their own private manner later in season. Furthermore, Ruben Golding is looking to celebrate the holiday in a much more personal manner with his girlfriend, Laura, if she should make the decision to accept the Wolf Gift and join the clan of the Morphenkinder.
There is something more sinister at work in Nideck Point. The ghost of Marchant is lingering in the house and Ruben is haunted about what the meaning behind her ghost. Tension is building between some of the Morphenkinder as the idea of another group of mysterious eternal beings, the Forest Gentry, joining in the celebration is not welcome by all. Then there is the mysterious Lisa who makes Ruben uneasy with her very presence. Add to this the preparations for the grand party, the tortured mind of Ruben’s brother Jim and its impact on Ruben and his family, and new developments between Ruben and his estranged fiancée while his relationship with Laura is growing and there is a lot more going on in addition to the great celebration and the festivities of the season become but a cover for much deeper and darker happenings in the winter season.
Those that did not like “The Wolf Gift” will probably not like “The Wolves of Midwinter” either as the story is continued in the same vein as the first. While there are definite similarities between this series and Rice’s vampire series, there is also the same difference that has seemed to draw criticism for the series and that is that Ruben and the Morphenkinder are not the same tortured souls that Rice’s vampires were. Ruben and his comrades contemplate many of the same issues but they do so from an almost opposite standpoint. While Rice’s vampires were forced to live outside of society and were outcasts due to their very nature, the Morphenkinder live an almost charmed life in which they can control their violent urges and hold positions of respect amongst the humans around them. In fact, “The Wolf Gift” series is not really a horror series at all (although there are some definite horror sequences in the story such as when the Morphenkinder go on a group hunting trip) but is more of an almost fairy tale than a horror novel. Ruben is left to question the meaning behind the Wolf Gift but the change has enhanced his life rather than change him into something that he does not want to be as vampirism did to Louis in “Interview with a Vampire.” This is the story behind a gift rather than the tale of a curse and that has a large impact on the tone of the novels.
All of that is not to say that this is a bad book. “The Wolves of Midwinter” is, in fact, a very good book. I have to admit that I thought that it wandered a little in the beginning and had me scratching my head at the preparations for the grand celebration that the Morphenkinder were planning. I thought that this was a bit overdrawn and it took me a little while to get into the story. Rice showed her adeptness of a writer and pulled the story together and made it exceptional. The grand celebration was very well written and I found it to be enchanting even though it did little for me to advance the story of the Morphenkinder or Ruben. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Rice pulled together the strands of the different beings of the story and weaved them together in ways that were surprising to me as the novel moved toward a close. I also found the dilemma of Ruben’s brother, Jim, and the moral dilemma that it raised to be intriguing although the resolution of this was a little too much of a deus ex machina solution for me. It seems to almost further a belief that while bad things happen to good people, good things happen to those who persevere although life is often not that simple.
Anne Rice is doing something a little different in “The Wolf Gift” saga and I can understand how it might not appeal to some of her fans. The simple fact is that I like the two books so far and I am happy with the direction in which she is taking the series. There is no disputing that Rice created something special in her vampires but I do not want her werewolves to just be hairy vampires but rather want them to be something new and original and that is what Rice has done. With the many similarities between her vampires and her werewolves, one of the most interesting things about “The Wolf Gift” and “The Wolves of Midwinter” is the way in which Rice has dealt with many of the same issues from a completely different perspective. The almost fairy tale feel to “The Wolves of Midwinter” interested me (was there some planning in including “Midwinter” in the title to a book that had sequences reminiscent to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”) but there were also some strong scenes of horror mixed into the novel. While “The Wolves of Midwinter” is generally an upbeat novel and the lives of the Morphenkinder are charmed, I still finished this book with a feeling of something dark lurking in the future. Maybe I am wrong about that but I know one thing for sure: I cannot wait to see where Rice takes this story next.
I would like to give a special thank you to Edelweiss and Knopf for this advanced reading copy. “The Wolves of Midwinter” is scheduled to be released by Knopf on October 15, 2013.