Monday, February 11, 2013

THE WOLF GIFT by Anne Rice

Hardcover, 404 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 
Genre: paranormal novel, fantasy
Rating: 5 stars

Reuben Golding, golden boy and young reporter for the San Francisco Observer, comes from  a very wealthy family: his father is a retired professor with a taste for poetry, his mother is a high-profile physician, his older brother a priest, his girlfriend a successful attorney. He got his job at the newspaper thanks to his parents’ influential connections and, although a very talented writer and new promise in the journalistic field, Reuben thinks he hasn’t achieved  anything outstanding in his life, no particular talent or gift to speak of unlike the rest of his family. He is writing an article about a huge and beautiful estate located in a remote area of Northern California: the Nideck property, a splendid mansion by the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by acres and acres of luxurious and isolated redwoods, is on the market for sale and in order to survey it Reuben meets the owner, the beautiful and worldly Marchent Nideck. The sophisticated, well-traveled Marchent  and the distractingly handsome Reuben are immediately drawn to each other . For some reason, despite the impervious location and the remoteness and seclusion of the place, Reuben falls in love also with the house and wishes to buy it for himself. He ends up inheriting it: just before being killed by her intoxicated brothers, in fact,  Marchent had made sure to contact her lawyers and have the property passed to the young reporter who had shown interest and admiration for the mansion and all the treasures it contained.
While trying to save Merchant from her brothers’ homicide fury, Reuben gets attacked and bitten by an unidentified wolfish creature. The same creature will kill Marchent’s brothers but will spare Reuben’s life. After the attack he experiences a weird hormonal surge, a growth spurt (rather strange for his 23 years of age) and emotional restlessness. That’s not all: all his senses are enhanced and he starts hearing voices coming from great distance and imploring for help. The young reporter seems to have developed special antennas and an inner radar for people in distress. And most amazingly, he can smell and track down  evil. In matter of days his new sensibility triggers a physical transformation: not the moon phases, but the pleas of innocent people in danger will cause him to transform into a werewolf and rescue them. The mutation will increase the emotional distance already existing between Reuben and his family and girlfriend. He is a new man now, fated and claimed by his new nature.

Anne Rice’s spin on the legend of the werewolf bridges her Gothic writer roots with the religious inclinations and philosophical pondering of her latest production. The novel features also a strong romantic twist when Reuben meets his mate in beautiful and sweet Laura. I have rated The Wolf Gift  five stars certainly for the plot, although quite unoriginal in its take of the ancient wolf-man myth,  but mostly for the metaphysical depths and philosophical issues it raises: 

 “Our way–the Western Way–has always been a work in progress. Questions of life and death, good and evil, justice and tragedy–these are never definitively settled, but must be addressed again and again as personal and public worlds shift and change. We hold our morals to be absolutes, but the context of our actions and decisions is forever changing.” 

In her trademark controversial, thought-provoking, and allegorical sort of way Rice shines a spotlight on what modern society labels as “monstrosity”, on those fine and shifting ethical lines our culture draws between good and evil, right and wrong, gift and curse. The metaphysical undertones and the fetching supernatural plot are a sheer pleasure to read. At the end of the book we are left on a huge cliffhanger, literally, but we are only two seasons away from the release of the anticipated sequel. The Wolves Of Midwinter: The Wolf Gift Chronicles is due on October 15, 2013.


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