Anne Rice emerged on the literary scene in the 1970s with the now classic INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. This awe-inspiring novel gave readers a new look at the ancient vampire myth and, in the decades that have followed, reignited a long-dormant genre that to this day remains one of the more popular storylines in modern fiction.
After regaling us with the saga of Lestat, Rice branched off into other tales of gothic horror featuring witches, mummies, demons and more vampires. This run of classic thrillers ended in 2005 with the release of CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT. Rice, in a startling transition, was now re-telling the story of Jesus Christ. Written in fiction style but based on actual biblical history, the two volumes in the Christ the Lord series were astounding achievements. She followed this up with a nonfiction effort, CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS: A Spiritual Confession, in which she shared with readers her continuing spiritual transformation.
"The characters come alive, and the strange history of the Nideck family will jump off the page and enter the readers’ nightmares as Rice has found a new gothic saga to sink her teeth into."
With a few novels featuring angels as the focal point, it appeared that Rice’s writing would remain in the realm of the spiritual and never return to the gothic horror landscape where she started from. We could not have been more wrong. Her latest release not only announces her return to the world of the supernatural, but also finds her examining a subject matter she had not really touched upon at any great length previously --- werewolves.
Taking place in present-day Northern California, young journalist Reuben Golding finds himself sent to a grand mansion estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean. His assignment from the San Francisco Observer is to interview the estate’s owner, Marchent Nideck. As he hears the tale of her family and how her great-uncle, Felix, had left the estate to her, Reuben is overcome both by the mysterious family saga and Marchent’s beauty. While finding himself falling for Marchent, Reuben also takes serious interest in purchasing the estate that is currently being shown to prospective buyers.
As they agree to terms on an idyllic evening, the night is interrupted by an act of unbelievable violence. A group of unseen beasts bursts into the mansion and attack both Reuben and Marchent. During the intense struggle, Marchent is killed and Reuben awakes badly injured and apparently bitten by one of the attackers. Little does Reuben realize that he has been given what is known as “the wolf gift.” As the young man finds himself undergoing the inevitable transformation, he is terrified and at a loss as to how to embrace the evolution he is undergoing.
Much like Peter Parker taking the bite of a radioactive spider and turning it into a vehicle for crime-fighting with his newfound strength, Reuben decides to buck the norm and use his Man Wolf powers for good. Things work out fine, at first, and he is even able to use his newspaper as the tool to publicize his lycanthropic exploits as the Man Wolf continues to do battle against wrongdoers. However, the ride does not last, and when the Man Wolf accidently bites a young man he is in the process of rescuing, he realizes he himself has passed on the Wolf Gift and in turn made himself a creature that is now despised and hunted.
With both thrilling acts of horror and a final act that is deeply based in the mythology of the Wolf Gift and its history --- and bordering on lycanthropic existentialism --- this novel opens readers up to a world they only thought they knew. It then goes much further. The prospect of the monster as a hero has been explored throughout fiction, but Rice puts a colloquial spin on it and adds current sensibilities to the misunderstood modern-day werewolf. The characters come alive, and the strange history of the Nideck family will jump off the page and enter the readers’ nightmares as Rice has found a new gothic saga to sink her teeth into.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on February 16, 2012