Title: The Wolves of Midwinter: The Wolf Gift Chronicles
Author: Anne Rice
No. of Pages: 400
Origins: Knopf Doubleday
Release Date: 15 October 2013
Bottom Line: Gorgeous imagery and beautiful continuation of a fascinating story
“The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide.
For Reuben Golding, now infused with the Wolf Gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this promises to be a Christmas like no other…
The Yuletide season, sacred to much of the human race, has been equally sacred to the Man Wolves, and Reuben soon becomes aware that they, too, steeped in their own profound rituals, will celebrate the ancient Midwinter festival deep within the verdant richness of Nideck forest.
From out of the shadows of Nideck comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with—and drawn to—the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence, and as the swirl of preparations reaches a fever pitch for the Nideck town Christmas festival of music and pageantry, astonishing secrets are revealed; secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits other than the Morphenkinder, centuries old, who inhabit the dense stretches of redwood and oak that surround the magnificent house at Nideck Point, “ageless ones” who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and who taunt with their dark magical powers . . .”
Thoughts: Reading The Wolves of Midwinter is much like sinking into a favorite chair or couch and cuddling up with a beloved blanket or sweater. While the first book concentrated on the physicality of Reuben and the emotional trauma of his transformation, this book emphasizes Reuben’s new surroundings, and nothing is too small to avoid its place in the narrative. The descriptions – of the house, of the woods, of the Yuletide festivities, of the Midwinter ritual – are unspeakably lush and sensual. Readers will find all of their senses heightened by the beauty and depth of Ms. Rice’s imagery and the minute details she includes in each of them. Even the more gruesome images are beautiful in their own right. The book is at once comforting and informative.
The Wolves of Midwinter begins shortly after The Wolf Gift ends, with very little fanfare or memory-jogging explanations. Reuben’s new family is firmly ensconced at Nideck Point while he still works to balance his new life and family with his old one. Whereas The Wolf Gift discusses much of Reuben’s transformation and adjustment to his new existence, its sequel focuses on solidifying the Morphenkinder family and educating Reuben into their traditions and other ways of life. He uncovers new ideas, new beings, and the dawning realization of what forever truly means.
While there is action, as must happen when wolves – even Man Wolves – are in the picture, The Wolves of Midwinter is more explanatory than action-driven. The focus on the Yuletide festivities and its sense of harmony the Morphenkinder are trying to establish around Nideck speaks to the need for tolerance throughout the world. There is also a surprisingly large amount of theology as Reuben works to balance his Catholic upbringing with that of his new-found knowledge. Many a discussion of God, God’s plan, and belief systems in general fill the pages of the novel.
With its focus on explanation rather than conflict, it is easy to dismiss The Wolves of Midwinter as a mediocre sequel that fails to forward the plot, and in many ways, this assumption is correct. The story does tend to meander pointlessly, and as many questions continue to exist as are answered. There are certain sub-arcs that really have no bearing on Reuben’s story other than that they involve his family members, and therefore he must play a role. Still, the beauty of the narrative and the exquisite descriptions make this anything but a mediocre sequel. It is an absolutely luscious glimpse into a very special and unusual family unit, one that makes a reader understand why they call becoming a wolf a gift rather than a curse.