Throwback Book Review: Anne Rice’s “The Wolf Gift”

I originally wrote this review for http://www.DarkMedia.com a few years ago.  I thought it would be fun to share it here on my blog as well. 🙂

The Wolf Gift

Genre: Adult, Fiction

Publisher: Alfred A. Knoph

Publication Date: February 14, 2012

Author: Anne Rice

Overall Review: 5/5-Excellent

Review by: Sarabeth Pollock

 

A Return….

In 1994 I stumbled across a mass market copy of Interview with the Vampire in a country store during a family vacation.  Though I was fourteen, I immediately fell in love with the lush prose and the vivid characters that came to life in the novel.  After the first few pages I was transported into a world where vampires came to life; the story was as consuming as the humidity of a hot New Orleans evening—which is to say inescapable.  I have been an Anne Rice fan ever since, becoming enmeshed with the stories of vampires, witches, ghosts, and even mummies.

2005 saw Rice’s departure from the supernatural with the publication of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.  Year later, through the miracle of Twitter (ironically, given the prevalence of social media in The Wolf Gift), I discovered that Anne Rice was returning to the world of the supernatural with a new book about werewolves, called The Wolf Gift.

I am pleased to tell you that Anne Rice has returned to the world of the supernatural with a thrilling tour de force!

 

The Story….

Reuben Golding is a youthful reporter for the San Francisco Observer, on assignment to write about an enchanting mansion situated on a cliff in Mendocino.  We meet the alluring owner of the house, Marchent Nideck, who looks to sell the house after the estate of her great uncle Felix Nideck has been settled.  Felix Nideck has at last been declared dead after his mysterious disappearance years earlier, and Marchent is eager to sell the house and return to her life abroad.  She hopes that Reuben’s article in the Observer can spark interest in the house and quickly attract a buyer.

Reuben is the youngest son born to a surgeon mother and college professor father.  His older brother is a priest and his girlfriend is a high-power, high-energy district attorney.  They all have nicknames for him that continually remind him of his youth: he is “Sunshine Boy” to his girlfriend and “Little Boy” to his brother Jim.  Reuben is an aspiring writer, and a dreamer, who would be content to buy the house, which he refers to as Nideck Point, even though he knows that his family (with exception of his father) would never approve of such a frivolous purchase.   

It isn’t long before Reuben convinces himself that he must buy Nideck Point, for he has fallen hopelessly in love with the house, and, unexpectedly, he has fallen in love with Marchent.   He follows Marchent like the proverbial kid in a candy store as she takes him from room to room, sharing her late great-uncle’s treasures with Reuben.  In the library they come across a massive portrait of six men hanging above the mantel.  They are dressed in safari khaki and they are in a jungle and they have interesting names like Margon and Sergei and Frank Vandover.  Margon, also known and Margon the Godless, was Felix Nideck’s closest friend as well as his mentor, and though these men were all incredibly close, Marchent has been unable to reach them after her great-uncle’s disappearance.

It isn’t long before the tranquility of Nideck Point is shattered in the middle of the night by an attack, at first at the hands of mortal men with jealousy and revenge on their minds, and then by…something else.  It is at that point that Reuben receives the Wolf Gift.

 

My Thoughts….

The most compelling aspect of this novel is that the story is oddly plausible.  Whereas Interview with the Vampire vacillated between past and present, The Wolf Gift is firmly rooted in the present, with all of the technology and media and ethical dilemmas that come with life in 2012.  Reuben, like most twenty-three year olds in the twenty-first century, is in love with his iPhone.  He uses it to chronicle his transformation from man to wolf.  Once reports of the mysterious “Man Wolf” start to circulate, people all over the world flock to social media sites to create fan pages and dedicate songs on You Tube to him.  Reuben uses his newfound powers and abilities to help people in need, and though one can raise scores of ethical issues about his methods, Reuben clearly acts with good intentions.  The Man Wolf, rather than be feared by the media-hungry public, becomes something of a hero to scores of people who believe that he is trying to do good in a world where it is easy to lose hope.

Another interesting aspect of the story is that Reuben shares his lupine dilemma with other people.  He confesses his secret to his brother Jim, and he confides in Laura, the woman who accepts both his human and wolfish selves with love and compassion.  This is a departure from other Anne Rice novels, where characters went to great lengths to conceal their true nature from the mortals around them.  (ASIDE:  Lestat’s quest to become a rock star in the 1980s could be interpreted as an attempt to reveal his true vampiric nature to ultimately allow him to live in the open, but even he conceded that mortals didn’t really believe he was a vampire.)   

One of the most refreshing aspects of Reuben Golding’s character is that he doesn’t hate himself or the creature he has become.  Once he understands the Wolf Gift, he cherishes it.  He embraces it and comes to see the wolf as part of his identity.  As an intellectual young man raised in a family that taught him to seek knowledge and ask questions, Reuben wants to understand what he has become so that he can use the gift to its full potential.  Of course he makes some mistakes along the way, but these mistakes make Reuben’s character all the more real, for he is a man stumbling through this transformation alone.

I enjoyed how Rice allows the reader to experience Reuben’s transformation with him.  Her imagery makes it easy to imagine what it must feel like to shed one’s human form and become a Man Wolf.  The novel moves quickly through his discoveries and his adventures as a werewolf, but it does get bogged down with mythology toward the end as the story races to its conclusion.  I’m not sure that this is detrimental to the story, however, as the mythology is essential in establishing and understanding the new world of werewolves, or Morphenkinder, that has been created.  Avid Anne Rice fans are well-versed in the history of her vampires and witches after eighteen books, so it is fair to say that this novel serves as an origin story and couldn’t be told without the mythology.

Anne Rice fans new and old will enjoy The Wolf Gift, and given the increasingly energized interest in werewolves thanks to shows like SyFy’s Being Human and films in The Twilight Saga, new readers will appreciate a fresh and modern take on werewolves.

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