Anne Rice's New Werewolf Novel Paws Familiar Territory

Alan Chese reviews The Wolves of Midwinter, the latest in Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift Chronicles.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

The prolific writer Anne Rice is out with her 33rd book. It's called "The Wolves of Midwinter." And our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, says it's perfect for October.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Previously on - the announcement of the recap trailer - has become quite familiar to an American TV audience devoted to the recent phenomenon of the series. With the publication of the second book in Anne Rice's new "Wolf Gift" series, it seems as though novelists must now offer recaps for readers who don't pick up the first volume and read away.

From the recap page in the front of "The Wolves of Midwinter," you'll learn that San Francisco reporter Reuben Golding, having been bitten by a strange wild animal outside the hamlet of Nideck Point in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco, undergoes the Chrism, or the sea-change that turns him into a werewolf, and also making him a member of a near-eternal clan of similar folks known as the Morphenkinder.

When the change comes over Reuben - and even in volume two of the series, in this book, he's still not completely certain of how to handle it - he grows long hair and fangs and claws, right, and suffers a big hankering for meat. Rice's Man Wolf, as she calls him, has a lot of affinities with a comic book superhero and he satisfies his super hunger by tracking the perpetrators of various dastardly crimes and devouring them, right down to just about the last rib.

Though this second volume opens a bit quietly as Reuben tries to smooth things over with his family, especially his poet father, Phil, and his brother Jim, a priest, to whom he has confessed his new state in the privileged exchange of confession, he joins his fellow Morphenkinder as they cook up a midwinter festival in rainy Nideck.

But here's where things get good and wolfen messy again. There's a tussle among the Morphens over a plan for human sacrifice, with the intended victim one of Reuben's near and dear, and there is some rough sex wolfen-style, a lot of human meals to go and a neat plot turn at the end that increases Reuben's sense of family.

The dialogue in this book becomes a little stilted now and then, but it's also quite clear overall that since she's put her Jesus novels behind her and taken up this new pagan series, Anne Rice herself seems to have undergone quite a transformation. I rate this one two out of four howls, and I look forward to reading the next installment.

CORNISH: An unusual take by our reviewer, Alan Cheuse. The book, "The Wolves of Midwinter" by Anne Rice.

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