"The Wolf Gift" Review"
Disclaimer: I tried very hard to stray away from offering any spoilers. It has always remained a personal policy to keep from posting spoilers because I want readers to enjoy reading reviews without fear of ruining the great experience of reading any book without foreknowledge of certain surprising revelations in the story.
Anne Rice’s newest novel The Wolf Gift symbolizes a return to familiar territory for Anne Rice fans. It also showcases Anne Rice’s search for a new spiritual perspective within her life. Beginning in early 2011, many of Anne Rice’s Facebook posts contained inklings of a new supernatural story which featured werewolves as the central focus of the new project. Upon reading this post, I knew that Anne Rice desired to return to place that she fondly loved within her earlier novels. It was a metaphoric paradise where she can poetically seek new meaning within her life.
On the outside, “The Wolf Gift,” has elements that are reminiscent of Interview with the Vampire from the San Francisco journalist to the California setting. Also, the intoxicating, sensual prose returns in majestic form within the story as it effortlessly immerses the reader into a beautiful oasis where Californian redwood trees are foregrounded against a inky night sky. Against this blackness, the natural world filled to the brim with a host of different forms of biological life are seeking meaning in their own unique way. The werewolf within this environment happens to be the proverbial “top dog,” or an elite species that is a new evolutionary phase of both” humans” and “beasts.”
Except, Anne Rice’s supernatural creatures are far more human than bestial in any sense. As with all novels, the supernatural creature represents ourselves, composed of both “primal” and “rational” senses as we carve out meaning about the nature of morality, or the questionable existence of God or some higher power. These supernatural creatures allow us to freely ponder our own existential questions within a rich fictitious setting. “The Wolf Gift,” primarily focuses on the tough philosophical question of “the problem of evil,” what types of acts constitute the label of that word “evil?” This question is intrinsic to the existence of the werewolf as these seemingly abstract concepts appear tangible within their construction of the world. Except, this tangibility paradoxically introduces more questions than answers about the nature of evil.
Surprisingly, this book improves upon her other books where some minor characters were sometimes caricatures rather than characters. This problem was more apparent in her later Vampire Chronicles books that partly lost their razor-sharp, artistic edge that was finely sharpened within her earlier novels. Fortunately, the Wolf Gift attests to Anne Rice’s newly discovered creative spark that she alluded to in Facebook posts after leaving Catholicism. All the characters were developed meticulously and far more than just caricatures. Many of her critics have always misunderstood the power and mystique of her sensual prose that really enhances the cinematic power of her depictions of the werewolf transformation. There were instances that reminded me of some her finest works like Memnoch the Devil, or The Vampire Lestat where the prose contained so much realistic detail that I effectively lost my sense of reality temporarily. Except, Anne Rice books have the uncanny ability to imbue you with a different sense of reality altogether.
To those who have never read Anne Rice’s books, the attitude of fans that believe that Lestat, or Anne Rice’s characters might be real seems insensible. From reading her books, this belief makes perfect sense as even the stubborn realist such as myself often imagines the possibility of meeting such prodigious characters like Lestat, Marius, Armand. After reading “The Wolf Gift,” there are now a litany of new characters that I can only dream were real. This sense of kinship with her characters made reading the final pages a very melancholy experience. Much like finishing an episode of Anne Rice’s favorite tv series such as Rome, Lark Rise to Candleford, or Downton Abbey, departing from the exciting world of “The Wolf Gift,” was extremely painful. To this day, after finishing the last pages, I still have stinging separation anxiety.
Does “The Wolf Gift,” deserve such effusive praise? In my humble opinion, it does because Anne Rice outdoes herself with this book by compiling the greatest elements of her best novels, and admixes them with some new philosophical insights, and interesting characters with an array of unique gifts. As always, Anne Rice’s stories appear menacing with their Gothic undertones albeit The Wolf Gift also involves a rich sense of optimism and reverence for the complex, enigmatic world that we live in. Some of the quieter sequences of the novel lull you into a sense of peace before the novel descends into a darker, more boisterous scene. Due to this exceptional quality, the book never overwhelms you instead it mystifies you, and grants the reader that sense of wonderment which JK Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin, and JRR Tolkien adeptly filled their readers' minds with.
Hopefully, all Anne Rice’s fans will not be disappointed with this wonderful tome. To me, it has a rich array of all those qualities that define an Anne Rice book: philosophical musings, antique houses described in florid detail, sensuous prose, and old--school English Gothic elements. On the other hand, it also involves a fresh take on the “werewolf” who has recently been revived by Twilight. After reading The Wolf Gift, you’ll be left in limbo because the story just leaves you with such a deep impression of awe that its impossible to consciously sort out your opinion immediately after reading it.
On Feburary 14th, prepare yourself a cup of coffee or tea and then find a comfortable seat. Once you start reading, you’ll be detached from reality and be unable to stop reading for awhile. Another symptom of finishing this book happens to be an insatiable need to research everything about werewolf lore, and also to check out the films that are referenced within the book. Personally, I cannot wait to hear every one's reactions to the story. I think its safe to say that Reuben, and the cast of other colorful characters within this story will win over the hearts of any readers. Thank you Anne Rice, for your receptiveness to fans, and for writing such an excellent book!! Also, thanks to Knopf publishers for providing the advance reader copy of this book!! It is very much appreciated.