“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 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 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 threatens 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 may be others like him who are watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time who 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.”
Thoughts: While not quite as captivating as Ms. Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, The Wolf Gift is ultimately a welcome addition to the horror genre. Ms. Rice’s monsters are as angst-ridden and as complicated as one would expect. Reuben Golding is neither beast nor man and must learn to navigate his way in this new world as best as he can. It is this journey and the unexpected twists and turns along the way that make Ms. Rice’s latest novel so intriguing.
What Ms. Rice does so well in all her novels is explore the definition of humanity as it applies to those not normally considered part of society; The Wolf Gift is no exception. As Reuben explores his new powers, the line between good and evil is very narrow indeed. His conflict over distancing himself from his loved ones to protect them versus the need he has to surround himself with those same loved ones is as understandable as it is heartbreaking. As outlandish as the entire scenario might be, the reader has no difficulties empathizing with Reuben and his fight for normalcy. After all, love and happiness are what everyone seeks.
A reader should be warned that Ms. Rice’s werewolves are not the neutered Twilight version. They are meant to savagely and bloodily destroy anything they want, and that is exactly what they do. The amount of blood shed, bones crushed, and flesh devoured could upset even the most iron-stomached reader. Ms. Rice pulls no stops in presenting images of a profoundly dangerous and powerful man-beast and the destruction he can so easily cause and so readily does.
Of almost equal disturbance however is the sexuality, nee lasciviousness on the part of the werewolves. Like most wild animals, they are driven by their need for food and for sex. Ms. Rice makes sure that there is very little that is left to the imagination in all of these descriptions, whether the scene is one of Reuben hunting or of him performing a more intimate act. While readers will have no issues with these scenes, except for the explicitness of them perhaps, Ms. Rice’s version of werewolf transformation is a bit more questionable and less understandable. Surprisingly, Ms. Rice allows her werewolves the pleasure of orgasmic transformations, and there are a lot of them. As expertly as they are written, these scenes make the reader feel voyeuristic and slightly dirty for having been privy to such intensely personal scenes. It is an interesting albeit unfamiliar reaction to a novel.
In The Wolf Gift, Anne Rice returns to her macabre roots with a complex and utterly gruesome tale of a man turned werewolf. Part coming-of-age novel, part horror story, Ms. Rice transports readers to coastal California through her lush and vivid descriptions, pulse-pounding pacing, and intricate cast of characters. Fans everywhere will welcome the Queen of Goth’s refreshingly frank take on yet another well-known monster.