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Book Review: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

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We all want success. We all want to be known for something great. We all yearn for that bright, hot spotlight to find us and not burn us to death on contact. Yet what we so often fail to visualize is the afterthought that we could become someday. Once we are known, we want to stay known, and there’s the deep, dark habit that gets formed.

It’s the pressure to keep cranking out good material, keep being relevant and adding something to the conversation at dinner tables and in living rooms all over the country. That’s a lot of pressure, sometimes more than we can even imagine and maybe, just maybe that’s what went wrong here in the new novel by legendary author Anne Rice, The Wolf Gift

The Wolf Gift book cover

The story is centred on a young affluent reporter named Reuben, who finds himself the unwitting new entrant in a tale yanked from the legends of monster movies and dark forests from way, way back. Bitten by a werewolf, it’s only after he changes into one himself does he believe his old children’s books to be real.

Then, with his acceptance driven not only by his keen intellect, but also by the voices of the innocent he hears crying out to him, Reuben ventures back through the books and tales to try and find an answer to what he is now. Monster? Man? The best of both or the worst in all of us?

The Wolf Gift unwraps the central theme in the lush, vibrant environments we’ve come to know and expect from Rice. Her depictions of New Orleans in the Vampire series were picture perfect, details of each room and setting were rich and succulent to the point of dripping off the page. This new monster tale is no different in that regard and the skill for it is as sharp as ever. 

The problem is the fit. That richness feels oddly foreign for these modern day characters, even if they are all coming from the upper crust of San Francisco society. Even their manner of speaking, the conversational moments felt stilted and melodramatic. The silky turns of phrase and overly intelligent bite that came from iconic characters like Louie and Lestat felt tight and unwieldy from our reluctant hero Reuben and his surrounding family. Only later in the book, as history begins to reveal itself, are there people who functionally fit into the tone of the book. 

I’m a long-time fan of Rice and I was eager to read this new turn of her writing, after devouring the Vampire books and the Witching series so long ago. To this day I think Memnoch the Devil is a seminal work (only behind Vampire Lestat), so admittedly it’s possible my bar is unreasonably high, but this new outing felt more like a reflection of earlier works as viewed through the warped, old glass in those beautiful Victorian houses in the Garden District. The world outside has changed too much and I ended up feeling like half the book was stuck out of time. 

There are moments of connection, stretches of excitement and momentum, but then the book slows to an unnecessary crawl, lurching forward far past the point when everything has been laid out before you. It answers its own questions far too early and leaves little reason to turn the pages until the back cover finally comes into view.

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About Luke Goldstein

A writer, movie junkie and political nerd. Basically anything that tells a good story is enthralling to me.
  • Steven Wade

    Anne Rice shared your comments on her page. How gracious of her to give yet another jealous writer the time of day. A book critic and a douchebag it seems are not that different.

  • http://www.lukegoldstein.com Luke Goldstein

    I would imagine as a long time professional writer, I am not her one and only negative review. Everyone gets them, including myself. As I noted in my post, I am a fan and have greatly enjoyed her previous work, I just felt this one was not up to par. As an honest reviewer for Blogcritics, I wasn’t about to twist and spin my way around the issues I saw just to write a positive review of a book I didn’t like. If you see that as being mean, insensitive or a douchebag, you’re welcome to your opinion.

  • Susanna

    I’m with Luke on much of his review. There’s an old adage about how writers should do, not tell. The book is too verbose, the characters simply unbelievable. The main character simply had things and people handed to him rather than learn them through experiencing them. It was a very flat book for me. And this from an adamant Rice fan. My one significant difference with the writer of the article is that Memnoch was my least favorite of the Vampire books. LOL

    Oh, I’m not a jealous, frustrated writer. Just so you know a bit, I’m in publishing.

  • http://www.sumikosaulson.com Sumiko Saulson

    I personally really enjoyed “The Wolf Gift”. I do think that I might have been holding it to a different bar than you have here, because I was comparing it to “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Witching Hour” – starts of her other chronicles. By the time we got to “The Vampire Lestat” and “Memnoch the Devil” the mythology of the vampire according to Anne Rice was already well established. With “The Witching Hour” she also established the mythology – as a rule, she starts out explaining how things work and the action starts up later with these series, and there’s something a little more sci-fi than horror in that approach. But I like it. Your mileage may vary. I very much look forward to “The Wolves of Midwinter”.

  • Steven Wade

    Luke, You were reviewing the lady as much if not more than you were reviewing the book. The diatribe about bringing something to the conversation at the dinner table was ugly. Had absolutely nothing to do with the substance of the book. Learn how to do your job. [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • Steven Wade

    All books will always find their audience. All books like all music and every song will find a group to entertain. You seem to find glee while tearing at a book and its author. If I cannot say something positive about a book I say nothing at all for I understand my opinion is just that. Critics of every kind are common and often ugly people. What a sad way to muddle through your day.

  • Steven Wade

    Every person has a story to tell. We are all of us professional writers. It is part of the human condition. So get over the self imposed title. It means nothing.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Steven, you have fallen into the error of assuming that just because all art can find an audience it should be supported.

    By way of analogy, there are people that support the politics of hate. Should we endorse those as well, just because.

    To only say positive things is a betrayal of both art and humanity, so your attitude is entirely wrong-headed and just a little pathetic…

  • Dr Dreadful

    If I cannot say something positive about a book I say nothing at all for I understand my opinion is just that.

    Curious you don’t apply the same standard to book reviewers.

  • Steven Wade

    He was not reviewing the book. He was reviewing the lady. Shame is on your reading comprehension skills.

  • Steven Wade

    Writers sometimes believe if they can unseat the masters they might have a brief moment sitting on someone else’s throne. That is truly pathetic. Make names for yourselves writing. Not tearing down others. I stand by everything I’ve said. [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    We were responding to what you wrote, Steven, not what the reviewer wrote, so your comment is as pointless as your earlier remarks were naive.

  • Steven Wade

    I honestly could not care less. Critique the book. I’m fine with that. Leave the author alone.

  • Steven Wade

    I see the personal attack against Mrs. Rice stands.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    #13: Why? What attack?

    #14: Having just re-read the review, I’m left thinking that the only thing you see is your own irrationality, but whatever works for you…

  • Dr Dreadful

    I can’t quite see how it would be possible to critique a book without that critique reflecting at least somewhat on the person who wrote it.

    One might, I suppose, comment on the quality of the paper it was printed on, or of the binding, or on the choice of jacket illustration, without offending Steven’s sensibilities.

    Suggesting that a successful author might feel pressure to sustain and build on their success, as Mr Goldstein does in the paragraph Steven takes issue with, is not a personal attack against Ms Rice, it’s an observation.

  • Steven Wade

    It is quite easy to critique any book, song, pot any work of art and never even mention it’s creator. The only people who would have a problem keeping their critique relevant to the work are mean people. Down with mean people.

  • Steven Wade

    Number 12 on USA Today’s Best Sellers among other best selling lists. A sequel coming out. Still making the talk show circuits. Almost a million followers on Facebook. A national treasure is Anne Rice. She tirelessly fights for abused youth, women’s suffer age, and actively reaches out to her fan base personally responding hourly. Over 800 million books sold in almost every major world language with people lining up for miles for her signature. You people don’t get it. She never left the spotlight. So this awful critique of the author is garbage. And I have every right to call it such.

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor. That’s three times, Steven; once more and you will be banned from this site. Your choice…]

  • Dr Dreadful

    It is quite easy to critique any book, song, pot any work of art and never even mention it’s creator.

    That’s not what I said, Steven, and besides, Mr Goldstein mentioned the author because of a specific impression he got from the book.

  • Steven Wade

    Let’s agree to disagree. I got the impression of yet another author jealous of the fame of another. It’s my opinion. Get over it.

  • Steven Wade

    A negative critique of the author should fly but not a critique of the critic? Double standards are so handy.

  • October

    Great review, thanks!

  • Rose Mary

    Great review; clear and very well explained. I find it unbiased and it shows perfectly the most important flaw in The wolf gift.

    The only terribly wrong thing here is Steven Wade and his pointless comments.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    “Critics of every kind are common and often ugly people,” writes Steven unaware as he ironically proves the point

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

    Of course nothing beats Interview with the Vampire