In the beautiful forest of Northern California, the young reporter Reuben visits the family home of wealthy older woman Marchent. After her uncle disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and with both parents dead, Marchent has decided to sell the house and wants Reuben to write an article to help publicize the mansion. Reuben, wealthy in his own right, falls in love with the home, and plans to offer to buy it when he and Marchent are attacked. Marchent is killed, as are her two druggie brothers who instigated the attack, and Reuben is left bitten by the animal that saved him. It becomes clear that he was bitten by a werewolf and now has the power to transform into a powerful beast. He hears the cries of victims around San Francisco, and can smell the evil that he seeks to destroy.
When I saw that Anne Rice had written a werewolf book, I was very excited. I began reading her Vampire Chronicles when I was in high school, and have read the Mayfair Witches books and some of her other one-off novels as well. I always really enjoyed her writing, although the last book I’d read of hers, Blackwood Farm, was pretty darn bad. However, now that I’ve read The Wolf Gift, I’d rather have read Blackwood Farm over again.
The main thing that drove me crazy about this book is the affected tone. The writing, the characters, all of it, it all sounds like the voice of a wealthy 70 year old woman. Other reviews I’ve read have praised this book for being firmly rooted in the 21st century. I disagree. While there’s plenty of mention of genetics, iPods, cell phones, and laptops, these modern references rub harshly against the antique syntax and vocabulary of the narrative. Honestly, this story reads much like something out of the mid-19th century. And while it’s nice to see an author pay homage to classics of the gothic and horror genres, it just didn’t work here.
As for characters, there were none I could related to in this book. Everybody has money, and I just could not feel sorry for anybody who is so vastly wealthy because of money they gained through inheritance. Reuben doesn’t need his job as a newspaper reporter, and inevitably seems to abandon it. Marchent seems to have all the money in the world, and thinks nothing of leaving a vast mansion to a man she only just met. Even the boy that Reuben saves later in the book is a the son of an actress. It’s funny that in the current Occupy environment we’d be presented with a novel in which every major character is independently wealthy. It strikes me as very out of touch with the main audience of this book.
There’s romance, too, and it also sat oddly with me. Twice, Reuben sleeps with women he only just met, although he is engaged. The second time was the more bizarre, as he is in his “Man Wolf” form and sees a young woman who is all too happy to immediately jump into bed with him, even though he’s a WEREWOLF. Really, Anne Rice!? And the thought of the girl making out with his dog lips made me want to gag.
As for the plot, it was pretty weak. At no point did I feel that Reuben was in any real trouble, never did I feel a sense of danger. On the contrary, most of the first half of the book felt like a Spiderman rip off. Young man is bitten by a strange creature that alters his DNA and gives super powers to stop bad guys. He leaps from rooftop to rooftop throughout the city rescuing those in need. The newspaper he works for makes him report on the new Man Wolf. He becomes a folk hero, with people writing songs for him and selling t-shirts. Sounds like Stan Lee could use some royalties.
I think it’s clear from what I’ve sad that I was gravely disappointed in this book and struggled to finish it. The ending is anti-climatic, so even that let me down. I will think hard before reading another new Anne Rice book. With her, it’s probably best to stick with the classics.