Anne Rice has done it again and delivered a novel that will have you wanting to read it in one session. October 2013 saw the arrival of "The Wolves of Midwinter", the sequel to best-selling "The Wolf Gift". With this second installment in the "Wolf Gift Chronicles", Rice once again sweeps the reader into a fascinating world that revolves around the Man Wolf Reuben and his companions, taking the cliché topic of werewolves to new depths and heights.
In the first book of the series, young reporter Reuben Golding gets bitten by a mysterious creature when he tries to save Marchent Nideck, the owner of the splendid mansion Nideck Point and his love interest for one night. Soon he discovers that he turns into a werewolf or Man Wolf, a fierce creature with a human core. Reuben is torn between saving innocent people, slaughtering the evildoer, hiding his secret from his family as well as the media and coming to terms with a whole new life. He meets the Distinguished Gentlemen, a group of centuries-old men also blessed – or cursed – with the Wolf Gift.
The second book picks up the thread after the group of Morphenkinder saved themselves from cunning scientists and public discovery. The overall theme of "The Wolves of Midwinter" is Yuletide and with it the Christmas season. Felix, somewhat the leader of the pack, organizes a great celebration complete with lavish decorations, a village fair and a Christmas party at Nideck Point. But the merriness gets dampened by many reasons. A tormented ghost haunts the premises, appealing to Reuben.
Warning, spoilers ahead: The ghost is no other than the recently murdered Marchent. In trying to find out what she wants, a bond is formed with another species of the Undead, the Forest Gentry. All around him, the Man Wolf encounters new beings like the Ageless Ones, new possibilities and new dangers. Reuben's father gets entangled in the goings-on and there are challenges from other family members, too. Reuben's ex-girlfriend Celeste and his brother Jim spring quite some surprises on him. Laura, his lover, undergoes a significant transformation. That alone is enough fodder for more installments in the "Wolf Gift Chronicles".
Rice's gift to the reader
As the doors of Nideck Point are thrown open, they draw in a crowd that brings with it even more mystery than we had caught a glimpse of in the first book. Once again, the author captures the atmosphere perfectly with her detailed descriptions of the surroundings and the Yuletide festivities. There is no lack of meticulously researched science, the metaphysical and the philosophical. The human struggle in the not-so human creatures is what gives the story its backbone, as has been the case with the famous "Vampire Chronicles". The insights on Midwinter and Yuletide lend the book an even more mysterious air. Personally, I still have to come to terms with Rice's decidedly more modern language and style. Also, the many issues all seem to be solved too easily. Almost all pieces eventually fit into the puzzle, although there is a lot of action and emotional turmoil involved. In fact, prepare yourself for more physical violence, taboo-breaking and fights than in the first installment. While in his human form, Reuben is a "sunshine boy" – as he gets called by his family somewhat ironically – he clearly enjoys feasting on animals and human evil-doers and Rice doesn't spare us the gory details. "The Wolves of Midwinter" makes a fabulous read for fans of Anne Rice novels and raises as many questions as it answers. It's best to read "The Wolf Gift" first to get a picture of the overall situation, the dynamics in the group and the details of the life of a Man Wolf.
Let me leave you with a quote from the masterpiece that sums up the whole book and much of what Rice's writing in general stands for:
« God triumphs on the ruins of our plans. And maybe that is what is happening here. We make blunders, we make mistakes, and somehow new doors open, new possibilities arise, opportunities of which, we've never dreamed. Let's trust that that is what is happening here for each of us. »
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