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Something Like a Review – The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

I debated writing Something Like a Review for The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice for a variety of reasons. As much as I loved her bloodsucking fiends and witches from other novels, I had been sorely disappointed by her more recent offerings. When I heard that this book was to be more of a return to her roots, I was excited, but hesitant. Could this be the return to the storyteller that had vowed to change her ways? Or at least her subject matter?

For those not in the know, or who are young enough not to have been aware of the blip in the Anne Rice radar, in 2005, Anne Rice gave up her dark subject matter – vampires and witches and sex, oh my – to pursue a more divine subject matter. In her own words (or at least words attributed to her and plastered all over the internet, “I promised that from now on I would write only for the Lord.” One’s personal religious convictions aside, what this meant for her writing was a swift kick in the ideals to readers who flocked to her stories for their lush, extravagant, New Orleans-inspired prose. The greens were verdant, the air redolent of antiquity, tradition and the blood always ruby red and flowing. I admit that I was a disenfranchised reader – one who read the Christ books and while the story was decent, it wasn’t the same writer. The prose wasn’t as captivating and the characters weren’t as engaging. I will venture the possibility that it was me, that the thrill of her naughtiness or dabbling with the forbidden was a majority of the allure for me. It’s possible. However, for this reason, I only flipped through a couple of the books she released after that to discover more of the same…and I didn’t buy them. The Anne Rice I knew as a writer was gone and I mourned her.

Fast forward a few years and Anne Rice quits Christianity. I admired her stance, her position and was hopeful this meant a return to the writer without constraint. I had stopped looking. The titles and blurbs didn’t captivate me nor did the samples I read demand further investigation and I didn’t want to be further disappointed.

Enter The Wolf Gift. Even the subject matter sounded more like a return to thee Anne Rice of old, so I took a chance and downloaded it using my Audible account.

I wish I could give a glowing review. I want to give a glowing review.

But I’m not going to.

Don’t get me wrong, she had a great story line, and there were things I really liked. This is a huge departure from the Christ books that got on my nerves and the angel books that turned me off before I got them to the register. What was weird was the division between the beginning of the book and the end. The beginning sounds like a first time novelist, and is littered with things I’ve grown accustomed to NOT seeing in the works of authors who have reached great success. What grated on my nerves the most was the product placement. Walmart. Bose. Porsche. Mercedes. iPhone. Amazon.com. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Brooks Brothers. Game of Thrones. The most egregious instance of this was when one character asked another “Do you have your Nikon?” Seriously? Do people even talk like that? Maybe it’s petty, but it broke the enchantment of the story for me and limited this story to a contemporary setting. What will readers in ten years think about the story? I can only have visions of a character in a book playing Atari and drinking Hi-C Ecto Coolers. It annoyed me enough that I stopped reading for a while, especially after the Nikon question.

The beginning of the story just got on my nerves. The lavish (long-winded) descriptions got on my nerves because it didn’t seem to match the California setting, as gothic a manse as Nydek Point may have been. There was just something…missing. Something that felt forced, as if I knew this could be great, but was missing the mark. I don’t know if it was symptomatic of trying too hard, or of recovering from such a drastic change from the most recent novels or what, but it didn’t click until halfway through the book. Until that point, the characters were simply not as vivid or vibrant. Reuben got on my nerves at the beginning as well. His obsession with Marchand, with whom he’d only spent a very limited time, was so overwhelming, in my frustration, I caught myself mumbling “Marchand, Marchand, Marchand! Can’t you talk about anything else?” as I shut it off. Then I giggled, but not enough to break the mood and turn it back on. I wanted Reuben to man up and quit obsessing about a captivating one night stand and making it the pinnacle of his worldly experience. I mean seriously. You thought Louis was whiny and broody, just get a load of “Baby Boy” through the first half of the book. I wasn’t and I’m not looking for Lestat, but I was expecting a character of equal vibrancy and passion and backbone.

Rice did a great job creating the world of the werewolf, envisioning the powers and transformation. This is where the story finally came to life for me and where it seemed that Rice caught her stride. In the second half of the book, I wanted more of the story, and I could see her not only gathering strength, but returning to herself. There were still a couple of glitches that I feel should have been caught by the editorial staff, like a character not understanding how DNA can be matched to him, yet suddenly spouting off about how mitochondrial DNA can differentiate two people, or the somewhat heavy handed explanation of what “pluripotent progenitor” (stem) cells are. These weren’t nearly as disruptive of the story as the issues in the first half.

I wanted to love this story, but I can only honestly say that I liked it. It does, however, give me hope that future offerings from Anne Rice will being to bring the vibrancy of her world building and characters that I’ve come to expect. I hope that she does return to New Orleans in the future because of the life she breathes into the pages, or perhaps some other gothic location that allows her florid prose to thrive and take on a life of its own.

Medium:  Audiobook from Audible.com

Other: Multiple formats available from Amazon.com.

Overall rating: 3 stars. The beginning was less, but the end redeemed it to some degree.

Potential re-read?: Only to review the beginning as a cautionary tale of “what not to do,” or to compare the differences between the beginning and the end of the story. There might be a lot to learn between the difference in the beginning and at the end. Or as a kick in the pants to remind myself that we’re all human and we all make mistakes, even if we’re a big name author and can make a living off of our published works.

Dead tree worthy?: No. I’m glad I listened to it, but I don’t see the value of allocating this one shelf space. If I ever need to review this tale again, I’ll either borrow it from the library or from someone who already has it.

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