Title: By Blood We Live
Author: Glen Duncan
No. of Pages: 368
Origins: Knopf Doubleday
Release Date: 4 February 2014
Bottom Line: This series just gets better and better
“First Glen Duncan gave us his monstrously thrilling, genre-reinventing The Last Werewolf: the tale of Jake, a werewolf with a profoundly human heart, considering bringing to an end the timeless legend of his kind . . . Then Talulla Rising: Jake’s werewolf lover, mother to newborn twins, on the run from those who want her destroyed . . . And now By Blood We Live: a stunningly erotic love story that gives us the final battle for survival between werewolves and vampires, and one last searing—and brilliantly ironic—look at what it means to be, or not to be, human.
The story opens: Talulla has settled into an uneasy equilibrium. With her twins safely at her side, and the devotion of her lover, Walker, she has what appears to be a normal family life—except for their monthly transformation into werewolves hungry for human flesh. But even this hard-won, tenuous peace is undermined for Talulla by nagging thoughts of Remshi, the twenty-thousand-year-old vampire who haunts her dreams. For his part, Remshi can’t escape the feeling that he knows Talulla from many (many, many) years before. Still, they have their distractions: Talulla is being pursued by a fanatical, Vatican-based Christian cult, and Remshi is following a trail of reckless feedings by a newly turned vampire bent on revenge. But, as the novel unfolds, Talulla and Remshi are inexorably drawn to each other—and toward the moment when an ancient prophecy may finally come to pass.”
Thoughts: True to form, By Blood We Live is not for the faint of heart or easily disturbed. As in the other two books, the descriptions of sex and violence are extremely graphic. Mr. Duncan leaves nothing to the imagination, especially when it comes to the monthly transformation and the intense build-up to it.
Yet, for all its explicit scenes of rough sex and gory murder scenes, By Blood We Live is a love story. Love is the driving force of the novel, whether it is of lost loves, future loves, or parental love. Talulla is still suffering from Jake’s death, and his memory is the measurement she uses for all relationships. In everything she does, deliberately or subconsciously, she is always seeking to make him proud and live up to his legacy. Then there are her children. Aged three now, she will never forgive herself for losing her son immediately upon his birth and constantly upbraids herself for her lack of protection. There is no doubt that her love for her twins is as deep as it is fierce. Finally, there is the increasing obsession she has with Remshi. She might be a legendary creature with a penchant for evisceration and vivisection, but her heart longs for the peace and comfort a loving relationship brings to everyone.
That Talulla and Remshi are living out an ancient prophecy is just a portion of the story. The introduction of the newest human danger, the Vatican-based Christian cult bent on unmasking the creatures and disposing of them, sets the stage for an entirely new battle. While the vampires and the werewolves will always oppose each other, the world in which they skirmish is definitely changing, and it is in this new world in which Talulla must find a way to negotiate her pack to safety. Given how the story itself ends, one can only hope Mr. Duncan has at least one more novel to write to close out Talulla’s story properly.
There is something incredibly hypnotic about the entire story. Talulla’s stream-of-consciousness rants are heartbreaking in the depths of emotion they show. Her mindset when fully transformed is equally mesmerizing because of the singular focus of the Wolf. In spite of all her outward toughness, Talulla remains the lost girl she was when Jake finds her, and her self-doubt is overwhelming at times. These very human attributes help balance the violence and destruction of which she is more than capable of inflicting on anyone who may get in her way.
By Blood We Live continues to explore the meaning of being human. For all her ferocity, Talulla is incredibly fragile, and she struggles to balance her brittle feelings with the fierce killer she becomes. That she both craves and abhors her behavior on every full moon underscores her continued conscience and is proof that she has not lost her humanity entirely. Then again, her capacity for love is further proof that she is not the monster she believes herself to be. The guilt she carries around with her – guilt at surviving when Jake is gone, guilt at her son’s kidnapping, guilt at her preoccupation with something other than her pack, guilt at the people who have been bitten or killed helping and protecting her – is brutal, but it is what helps keep her tied to her humanity when the Wolf wants nothing more than for her to shed her last vestiges of her past and fully embrace what she has become. For, no matter how often she changes and kills, as long as she continues to feel guilty about it, Talulla will always be human.
The third novel in The Last Werewolf series continues Talulla’s fascinating story. Her personal battles against the Wolf, as well as the battles she fights on behalf of her loved ones, remain provocative and intense. Mr. Duncan’s writing maintains its edginess, finding beauty in the grotesque, and capturing the elegance behind the mental anguish that comes with self-doubt and self-loathing. By Blood We Live is every bit as bloody and riveting as the first two novels, and fans can only hope that we will continue to follow Talulla through her personal existential crisis and her battle for survival.