Anne Rice is my favourite author. Ever.
It doesn’t matter whether she writes about witches, vampires, angels or even Jesus. I’ve read everything she’s written. Everything. I’ve even read her less known Beauty books, written under a different name.
So quite naturally, when I found out her new book is about werewolves, I pre-ordered it and counted the days to its arrival.
It makes little difference that I am not a massive fan of the hairy beasts, as within a couple of pages into the book, my faith in Anne Rice is completely justified.
When Reuben Golding, a privileged young news reporter drives to a remote mansion to cover a story on it’s uncertain future, he finds himself strangely attracted not only to the owner of the mansion, but to the mansion itself. But the trip leaves him with more than he bargains for; an attack that changes his life. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, Reuben is transformed from “sunshine-boy” to someone else, something else.
Unwillingly at first, but with increasing acceptance of his fate, he embarks on his journey of self-discovery. Soon, Reuben realises that his transformation allows him to smell evil. He feels compelled to protect the innocent and avenge people wronged. But his strength and new-found power also mean that he has to keep his distance from the life he had before his transformation; his family, his girlfriend and his friends. And while he struggles to come to terms with his new life, and the loneliness that surrounds it, the unimaginable happens. He “infects” another human with the Gift.
The Wolf Gift is pure Anne Rice. It is dark. It is romantic. It is fast-paced and gripping. It is engaging and perhaps most importantly, it is fresh.
Anne Rice has done with werewolves, exactly what she’s done for vampires, witches and angels and given them a complete make-over and her individual twist on their background. She’s re-invented and re-written the mythology of the genre.
Forget the phases of the moon and all the other typical werewolf stuff you are used to reading. Anne’s werewolves are conscientious and capable of retaining all of their feelings, while their sense of humanity merges seamlessly with their animal instincts in a satisfying manner. Whilst they retain their need of belonging in a pack, this comes with a completely different feel to the structured hierarchy and standard behaviour of packs that other werewolf novels thrive on.
The tension in the story builds steadily, although it peaks ahead of the end. In any other book, I’d find this slightly dissatisfying, but here Anne Rice cleverly answers all the questions she’s set through the story and explores the mythology of the werewolves she has created. It perhaps also sets the tone for her next novel in this series. As usual, I will look forward to getting my paws on it.
Chatto & Windus, London