Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice
From Goodreads: A daring new departure from the inspired creator of The Vampire Chronicles (“unrelentingly erotic. . . unforgettable.”), the Lives of the Mayfair Witches (“Anne Rice will live on through the ages of literature”), and the angels of The Songs of the Seraphim (“remarkable.”). A whole new world—modern, sleek, high-tech, and at its center, a story as old and compelling as history—the making of a werewolf, re-imagined and re-invented as only Anne Rice, teller of mesmerizing tales, conjurer extraordinaire of other realms, could create it.
The time is the present.
The place, the rugged coast of northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.
A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer. . . an older woman, welcoming him into her magnificent, historic family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . an idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence. . .The young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing who—what—he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.
As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf,” by authorities, the media and scientists (evidence of DNA threaten to reveal his dual existence). . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there are others like him who may be watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time and may possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge and throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.
WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!!!
My Take: Good enough story but not as gripping as I’d hoped. I’m always hoping for another Interview with the Vampire, but I have not really enjoyed anything of hers since 1990’s The Witching Hour. Another reviewer likened it to looking up an old ex to rekindle the flame …and sadly, that’s what I wanted but didn’t really get.
We begin with Reuben, a 23-year-old incredibly handsome and obscenely rich budding reporter whose mother nicknamed him “Sunshine Boy”. Oh, mommy. Well, Rice writes Reuben as a basically decent person, even with his sexual shennanigans (more on that later).
The juxtaposition of handsome, poetic, cerebral Reuben with the very visceral, bloody and avenging “Man Wolf” is striking. As a wolf, Reuben retains his intelligence and also had a cool new spidey-sense, the ability to smell evil. Rice comes up with a new mythos for werewolves – one that doesn’t need a full moon to shift, and that makes them look more like a hairy bigfoot than a wolf. Reuben coins the name “Man Wolf” in the newspaper articles he writes about himself, but if I had the chance to name my alter ego, I don’t think “Man Wolf” would make the top 10 list.
So, now we get to the shenanigans part: While writing a story about a mysterious mansion, Reuben falls into bed with the woman who owns it (despite the fact that he has a girlfriend). That night, the woman is murdered (by her brothers, we learn later) and Reuben is bitten by the “animal” that killed the attackers. But before the attack (and after the sex), the woman called her lawyers and left Reuben the house in her will. Reuben must be a stud!
Reuben also wanders as a werewolf and meets a woman who lives in the forest and, ahem, seduces her in wolf form. My bs meter went off about then – one: what woman in her right mind would not scream or at least run when confronted by a beastie covered in blood, and two: then have sex with him? Whaaaa? I wondered if maybe she’d seen one before, knew about them somehow, something … but no, as we learn later on, she just digs nature, no previous werewolf experience. And she does this twice before even seeing Reuben in human form. Oh, ick.
Okay, so far we have lots of people who are really smart and they all like to wax philosophical. Rice likes her characters to talk and talk and ponder and think about the why of things, and I really like just a tiny bit of that in between the action, not the pages and pages we get. Nearer to the end we meet Stuart, a modern San Francisco teenager (and gay-rights activist) who gets pulled in to this mess when Reuben saves him from being beaten to death (but unfortunately too late for his boyfriend). Reuben accidentally turns him into a werewolf. When Stuart speaks, he sounds like a 65-year-old philosophy scholar instead of a 16-year-old boy. The last 65 pages of the book are after the climax, and are all discussion of the history of werewolves and, again, Stuart and Rueben sound like twin professors instead of young guys who live in California. Just a little too out of touch for me.
The action in this book is pretty exciting when we get to it; the mystery of the house, and Uncle Felix, kept me interested enough to read this book all the way through. Just my previously mentioned disconnects kept a good story from being great.
See you in the STACKS,