Book Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Like vampires, werewolves have taken quite a bit of a beating in our modern culture.

Twilight, Teen Wolf, Mortal Instruments, and The Vampire Diaries have all taken a hit at the werewolf legends to try to awe and thrill their audiences. As a result, werewolves have become sexy changelings that desire nothing more than to love a nice girl and get a good scratch behind their ears. The werewolves in these stories are tame.

Anne Rice breathes life into the werewolf myth as only an author of her literary prowess can. Only queen of the vampires could create an entire new lore that is not only cohesive, but comprehensive. The Wolf Gift tips its hat toward classic werewolf literature, movies, and myths as Rice molds her creature into ‘The Man Wolf’.

The Wolf Gift is about Reuben Golding or is it about Nideck Point? Rice’s Northern California coast setting is just as alive and poignant as her carefully crafted characters. Nideck Point is a classic mansion that has withstood the test of time. It’s a relic of seemingly nothing more of a family with much money, but little history. Reuben is the baby faced reporter hired to write an advertisement for the newly marketed home. To the young man’s surprise he falls in love with the magic of both the home and the other-worldly woman to which it belongs. In one day his life is changed.  He is unexpectedly the recipient of ‘the wolf gift’.

I’ll start out with what I loved about this book. As I have become accustomed to with Rice’s work, I was enthralled by her characters. Rice’s cast is never dispensable. There’s never a dull character in the bunch. Reuben Golding is bright, handsome, young, and the baby of his small affluent family.  As shocking event after shocking revelation is thrust into his life he reacts in a most natural way. Never does he just accept the hand life has dealt him. He is questioning, thinking, and always fighting. He is quite possibly one of the most human characters I have ever read despite how ‘inhuman’ he may become throughout the novel. Reuben’s brother, Jim, is a Catholic priest and the voice of reason at times when Reuben feels he is losing touch with humanity. The scenes between brothers were always so touching and private I felt as though I was listening in on a conversation I wasn’t supposed to be privy to. Every character, whether you loved or hated them, was well thought out and dynamic.

Werewolves are not twisted wolf love children or uncontrollable monsters without separation between human and beast. Rice gave careful thought to her werewolf just as she did her vampires. In fact, in this book she explains their entire existence. Nature, science, and a little bit of suspended belief explains the existence of werewolves. I found that quite fascinating as most authors leave it up to ‘uh yeah, the moon and stuff’. The werewolves created here are fully man and fully beast and just plain make sense.

This book is not about a girl. Reuben does fall in love, a few times actually, but this book is not about werewolves fighting for the protection or devotion of a woman. For that point alone I award a million points to the house of Rice.

We’re not just talking about beast vs. man in this story. Rice wrote The Wolf Gift after having gone through her brush with spirituality. She largely explores the ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, and ultimately the creation of our world to begin with. Who says man is more reasonable than a furry mammal of the same mental capacity? Who decides the fate of man or beast? Rice certainly turns these thoughts over and over throughout.

Where I had a bit of difficulty with this book was the gentle slope of the story arch. The Wolf Gift is the first in The Wolf Gift Chronicles. The second book, The Wolves of Midwinter, is already in stores. I will go ahead and say I will definitely be reading the second book because of how intrigued I am by this version of werewolf and Rice’s characters presented in this book. However, I have no idea what the second book will be about. Rice left no cliff hangers or untied knots. All plots were, seemingly, completed. In fact, I was about ready to shut the book twenty pages before the end. All my questions were answered.

There is no clear climax to The Wolf Gift and that, I must say, is what bothers me the most. The central point of the story happened so fast and was executed so quickly that I barely had time to feel any sort of suspense, excitement, or wonder over the whole event. By the time my mind had caught up with all that happened the resolution of the story was already threaded through the needle.

The other difficulty I had getting through this book was the unnecessary length I felt the story was written to. The book is 404 pages long, but I truly felt I could have stopped twenty pages from the end. There was a lot of filler information. At times I felt like I was watching the uncut version of a movie. There were scenes where Reuben was going through a normal day or couple of days where she detailed every particle of the day. There were definitely chunks of chapters that should have fallen to the cutting room’s floor. I know the difference between character development and fluff and this was definitely a little extra.

Despite my nit-picky issues with the story, I did thoroughly enjoy the novel. Anne Rice delivered an expertly crafted narrative once again. Werewolves are thrilling and awe inspiring again. The Wolf Gift offers a real landscape to get lost in. Mystery, thriller, and fantasy all combine to create an encompassing experience for the reader.

I would recommend this book for any fans of urban fantasy or psychological thrillers.

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