Review of Anne Rice’s Wolves of Midwinter


 Summary Taken from Amazon Product Page

The tale of THE WOLF GIFT continues . . .In Anne Rice’s surprising and compelling best-selling novel, the first of her strange and mythic imagining of the world of wolfen powers (“I devoured these pages . . . As solid and engaging as anything she has written since her early vampire chronicle fiction” —Alan Cheuse, The Boston Globe; “A delectable cocktail of old-fashioned lost-race adventure, shape-shifting and suspense” —Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post), readers were spellbound as Rice imagined a daring new world set against the wild and beckoning California coast.Now in her new novel, as lush and romantic in detail and atmosphere as it is sleek and steely in storytelling, Anne Rice brings us once again to the rugged coastline of Northern California, to the grand mansion at Nideck Point—to further explore the unearthly education of her transformed Man Wolf.The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide. For Reuben Golding, now infused with the wolf gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this Christmas promises to be like no other . . . as he soon becomes aware that the Morphenkinder, steeped in their own rituals, are also celebrating the Midwinter Yuletide festival deep within Nideck forest.From out of the shadows of the exquisite mansion comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence and the preparations for the Nideck town Christmas reach a fever pitch, astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers . . .

Anne Rice continues her literary legacy with the newest installment in the Wolf Gift Chronicles: The Wolves of Midwinter. As opposed to other the myriad number of urban fantasy titles starring werewolves in the market, The Wolves of Midwinter departs from any formulaic trappings that often keep these other novels from truly transcending genre limitations.  Anne Rice’s novel may be ostensibly read as a werewolf novel, but this novel departs from the mono-mythic structure of the first novel. Instead, The Wolves of Midwinter  is a very multifarious novel that works as a novel about familial relations, the nature of death, and the profound implications of yearly rituals such as Christmas. In many ways, this is Anne Rice’s most complex novel thus far in her career, as she impressively combines all her deepest interests and passions from other novels in one structurally complicated tale.

Whilst plumbing the depths of our deepest existential questions such as the nature of time and the connotations of immortality from the perspective of Reuben Golding (the novel’s main character), Anne Rice weaves a rich Gothic quilt of characters that provide more depth to the main hero and the universe that he inhabits. The story is framed by the ritualistic period that lies outside of time: the yearly ritual of Midwinter. In the last novel, Reuben often broodily reflected on the division between nature and the sterile artificiality of the human world: both spheres represented his complex psyche that is comprised of his more civilized human self and uncivilized werewolf self. During the mystical time of midwinter, this division between the civilized and uncivilized spheres of existence become more ambiguous. Mysterious spirits begin to emerge around this time, who are the residual spirits of the deceased. Their origins and purpose in the universe, as with the werewolves, are cloaked in mystery. In the novel, they are the very embodiment of spiritual dimension of nature that were originally alluded to by Reuben in the first novel. Just as the aged redwood trees seem to have enigmatically existed for an immeasurable length of time, the span of time that the spirits have existed in the woods is similarly indecipherable. Interestingly, these spirits provide Reuben the opportunity to explore his unresolved feelings of grief over the death of Marchent from the first novel.  Remarkably, Anne Rice utilizes this subplot about Marchent to also further develop Reuben’s relationship with the fatherly figure of his new morphenkinder family, Felix.

Deftly, Anne Rice also constructs a story-line about the ongoing festivities that occur during the Yuletide season of Midwinter. Interestingly, the climax of the novel’s action even takes place during the symbolical fulcrum of these festivities: the night before Christmas. Without divulging any distinct details about this climatic sequence, Anne Rice uses this very tense scene to tie up another thread of the rich structural quilt of The Wolves of Midwinter. Throughout the first and second novels, Reuben continues to ponder the ethical conundrums of existing as werewolf. Supposedly, werewolves have the ability to discern between the moral or immoral actions of human beings, yet they paradoxically would not be able to do the same among their own kin. Meaning, the actions of other werewolves appear to be amoral. Within the climatic sequence of The Wolves of Midwinter,  Anne Rice adroitly tries to provide some insight into the way other morphenkinder clans interact and the disparate differences between their viewpoints, concerning morality. Even between Margon (the more sagely elderly werewolf) and Felix (the younger, gregarious father of the family), there are clashing differences between their views about death, ethics, and the importance of rituals to offer meaning to the otherwise conscious void that constitutes our mysterious existence on Earth.

Masterfully, The Wolves of Midwinter  pays homage to Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol  by offering readers a substantive examination of the nature of ethics, death, love, and time within the framework of a mesmerizing, ethereal Christmas ghost tale. Anne Rice invariably writes stories that are always purposeful and even philosophical without writing a tale that is ponderous. By reading the novel twice, I felt like I was reading two different tales. When I first read my Advance Reader copy of the novel sometime back in June, I examined the tale myopically through the lens of Reuben’s continued evolution as a wholly complicated hero character. During my second read of the novel, I read the novel as a dynamic Christmas ghost tale. A third read might even reveal a family story about the tumultuous soap opera that occurs within Reuben’s own human family and within his new Morphenkinder family.  On a fourth read, the novel may be even read as a Lark Rise to Candleford-esque tale that illuminates readers about the memorable way that Nideck Point celebrates Christmas.

Rather than being a insipid Christmas story that just coincidentally features werewolves and ghosts, The Wolves of Midwinter is Anne Rice’s most complicated novel yet, enmeshed in a world of rich, unforgettable prose. It is a novel that is multifaceted in its structural approach. It is an existential novel that invigorates the reader to examine their own life through the mythic perspective of immortal creatures. It is a novel that artfully rewards the reader with catharsis, which is an essential element to mythical writing that is woefully lacking in a reductive book market that often is negligent of the complex nature of Gothic or Speculative Fiction. Anne Rice has always been an outsider in the book market, and this novel competently continues this tradition of Anne Rice’s writing career. If you are looking for something that edifies and tantalizes the chilled, cynical spirit that seems to ruthlessly settle in during the wintertime, The Wolves of Midwinter  will indubitably eradicate that bothersome cold spirit, and remind you of the deeper meaning of Christmastime. Of course, this novel’s enjoyment is not limited to the Yuletide season, and can be enjoyed at any period of the year. I can awaiting the release of the next Wolf Gift Chronicles installment with unabated excitement!!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Marie West says:

    I totally agree with the above review. I cannot wait for the 3rd book to be written and published. I adore Anne Rice’s writing.


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