Rice may have returned to The Universal Studio Monster Vault (vampires, mummies and now wolfmen) but her latest foray into the supernatural is distinctly light on familiar Gothic tropes and offers something entirely current via the imagination of an author steeped in history and mythology.
The Wolf Gift is a superhero origin story with the werewolf or “Morphenkind”, Reuben Golding, glorified and elevated into a shape-shifting biological missing-link: a creature designed to track and destroy the very essence of evil.
The bright, breezy world of modern San Francisco offers architectural and natural majesty a world away from the grim, historical Grand Guignol of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. There is surprisingly little Fantasy here as Rice comes closer than ever to explaining her story’s wonders with real science. Religion and Catholicism, once Rice’s most prevalent concerns, are here reduced to the passive, infrequent presence of an agnostic family priest.
Rice loves to pepper her work with pop-culture references resulting in an astute self-referentialism which makes The Wolf Gift the most playful of all her novels. Reuben himself is aware of the looks and career which define him as a “Superman”.
Those who have found Rice’s previous novels unwieldy will discover a brisker pace and a manageable cast of characters, each of whom – in typical Rice style – is more admirable, brilliant and beautiful than the next. Rice is an unashamed aesthete who favours all that is sublime in nature, art, craft and engineering. Her prose is lush, richly detailed and decorous although her critics may find this cloying.
Rice loves to flaunt her extensive research and a suggested species mythology promises a new series that will unfold, much like The Vampire Chronicles to take in history, travel and esoteric enlightenment.
The Wolf Gift is the book that fans of vintage Anne Rice have been waiting for.
Reuben in the Window. ©Valeron. Image features Matt Bomer, Anne Rice’s preferred casting choice for Reuben Golding and a potential Christian Grey.