I have a long, and at times dramatic, history with Anne Rice’s novels. From the time I was thirteen or so, her tales of gentleman vampires kept me enrapt, returning to those familiar pages though I’d traveled through them time and time again. Almost a decade later I still find solace, amusement, adoration and contempt within those stories. I turn to them when I need guidance, when I need scripture, not because I romanticize her vampires, and in particular the anti-hero of Lestat de Lioncourt, but because I see myself reflected in them. Therefore, when I first ventured forth from Lestat’s narrative into the Extended Tales of the Vampires, I was surprised to find myself unimpressed and, in truth, utterly disappointed. Some of them captivated me, held my attention, and others I still rank as some of the most boring pieces of literature I’ve endured. However, these works had nothing on her Tales of the Mayfair Witches, which I’m sure are sterling all to themselves, but, and I hope you understand this, coming from a love of Lestat and all he represented, something in them fell short.
It was perhaps natural then that I reached a precipice of guarded misunderstanding and speculation. I wondered to myself and to others, if it was only Lestat and his close friends, his Coven of the Articulate as they are called, that I fell so surely for. I came to the conclusion that I was less a fan of Rice and her writing, which I for so long aspired to, and more a consummate fan of those few characters whom I could never desert. When I saw she had returned to writing pieces that were less about theology than some of her recent exploits – I am not, and never will be, a theologian – I was at once excited, and deeply worried.
In many ways, The Wolf Gift represents my final exploration into Rice’s work. I turned to it in the hopes that she would surprise me, but with the knowledge that, if she didn’t, I would have enough fodder to say, with utter finality, that I was a fan of her Chronicles, but not of her writing, as a rule.
I cannot easily convey how thrilled I am that it did not happen that way.
The Wolf Gift reads with all of Rice’s flourishing style. The intricate descriptions that at time cover page after page. The dive into morality, the concept of what is acceptable in no uncertain terms. It is very quintessentially Rice in that her characters struggle with the question, “Am I good? Is what I am doing good? Or am I evil? And if I am evil, how do I justify my existence?” Of course it dances beyond this, or else I wouldn’t sing it such high praise. The descriptions are wonderful, the werewolf lore – “wolfenkind” as they refer to themselves – is rich and unique, very much like the vampire mythos she started so many years ago.
It is, perhaps at its most simple, a story about a boy, encountering something horrendous he could never hope to adequately explain. It is about the way he handles the changes within himself, the murmured shouts carried on the wind over great distances, and his own innate desire for the flesh and blood of the malicious, the evil. Of course the story moves beyond just this lone individual, takes the reader into the world she’s created, where there are family dynamics, relationships to be forged, truths to be discovered.
There is a noticeable amount of Rice’s eternal questions concerning God and eternity, but at this point, I’d be disappointed to not see them, and they sit just enough in the background as to not be a nuisance. The morals are there, the lesson the story attempts to teach is clear, conveyed in prose and dialogue beautifully, and in a way that only Rice would truly manage. It is a book that solidified, at least for me, that Rice is deserving of the praise she had received over the years, and by the end of this novel she had crafted herself a new species of gentleman monsters, a new sort of preternatural threat and protector to captivate her audience.
I find myself wishing I could see Lestat in the sparkling world of the 21st century, that perhaps his world and the world of these man wolves could overlap they way his world and the world of the Mayfair Witches did. But even without the dashing Brat Prince to narrate and to captivate, I’ve found a solid foundation for a new chronicles in The Wolf Gift.
Maybe this is what the world needs, not more vampires to become lost in the snarling, blood sucking din, but a different kind of beast, something new and sensuous even as it is feral. Yes, perhaps this is exactly the sort of killer this world needs.