The more I think about The Wolves of Midwinter, Anne Rice’s follow up to 2012’s The Wolf Gift, the less I want to think about it. There are, let’s say, issues with this book. As everyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows, I have a soft spot for Anne Rice, nay, let’s call a spade a spade. I have a blind eye where she is concerned. I love everything she writes, even when it’s drivel, even when I freaking know that it’s drivel. I’ll keep reading these Man Wolf books of hers even though they seem to be descending rapidly into nonsense, and I’ll love them. And hate myself a little for loving them.
Where were we? Oh yes, Reuben Golding, the Man Wolf. He’s ensconced at Nideck Point, his mansion in Mendocino County, where it seems to always rain (does Anne Rice not know that we’re in the middle of a drought here in California?), living with the Distinguished Gentlemen, Stuart, and a rapidly growing collection of servants who are more than they appear to be. The Distinguished Gentlemen are others of his kind, the Morphenkinder, as is Stuart. He is in love with Laura, the woman he met in the midst of his early time as the Man Wolf in The Wolf Gift. But the ghost of Marchent Nideck, the woman he slept with once and who was promptly murdered shortly after changing her will so he inherited the entire estate upon her death, is literally haunting him. And his ex-girlfriend Celeste is apparently pregnant with his child. And marrying his best friend Mort (is anyone under the age of seventy named Mort anymore?). But never mind all that! There’s a Christmas Bazaar to plan in the tiny town of Nideck. Oh and by the way, Ruben’s big brother Jim, the selfless priest, used to be a raging alcoholic, and a violent one. He beat his girlfriend/professor’s wife so severely once when he was on a bender that she lost their baby! There are so many more examples of the far-fetchedness going on here. And this is why I don’t want to keep thinking about this book. Since I finished it I’ve been in a bubble I’m afraid to burst—the bubble is the delusion that this is actually a good book. It’s not. It’s actually fairly terrible. I recommend it to no one but the most die-hard of Anne Rice fans. But I read the whole thing cover to cover. And I’ll read the next one in the series too.
In my post about The Wolf Gift I speculated about whether or not Anne Rice was going to make this into a series. I guess I was right. The characters in the book also seem aware that they are in it for the long haul: Reuben and Stuart keep bugging the Distinguished Gentlemen for answers to everything about the origins of the Morphenkinder, traditions, locations of others. And Felix, Margon, and the rest keep telling them to relax and let everything be revealed in time. They have the rest of their now immortal lives to learn all that, they don’t need to know everything right now. It’s almost like Anne is telling her readers that she will get to all of our questions eventually, and to be patient. And yes, there are questions. Some are answered in this book—we met other Morphenkind at the big Midwinter celebration, which ends in tragedy and violence, but what do you expect when a bunch of werewolves get together to drink and run around a bonfire in the woods?
A major complaint I have about The Wolves of Midwinter (besides that it’s awful but I think I’m beyond that at this point) is that plot threads seem to get picked up and dropped often. I suspect that Anne will be getting back to things in the next book, but I think I would have preferred resolution with the Celeste pregnancy situation before we jumped into Jim’s crisis of faith during the last fifty pages of the book. I think I understand why she did things this way—she wants to leave hanging plot threads so people want to know what happens and will buy the next book. I get it. She’s creating a fictional universe and all good horror series have cliffhanger endings of one kind or another. But…. I don’t know. The way she does it seems awkward, and I can’t quite figure out why.
The writing in The Wolves of Midwinter is traditional Anne Rice—lush descriptions (the way she describes Nideck Point when it’s done up for Christmas is just amazing) and flowery dialogue. There are two twelve-year-olds who turn up at the end of the novel, though, who absolutely do not speak like any twelve-year-old I’ve ever met. It’s borderline absurd. Bethany would know better, because she’s around kids a lot more than I am, but I simply cannot believe that a twelve year old boy would say “a boy his age had a right to sue the school authorities to remain out of sports in which he could break his neck or his back, or fracture his skull…. ‘Certainly you know as well as I do that the state and all its subordinate institutions face the same problem with the young males of any society. The armed services exist to siphon off the dangerous exuberance of young males…. (364-5)’” Or maybe kids are more mature now than they used to be.
One other, final, complaint about this book, and then I’ll get back to trying to figure out when the next one in the series comes out so I can pre-order it. The blurb on the dust jacket makes it seem like the ghost of Marchent Nideck haunting Reuben is going to be a key, pivotal part of this story. And it’s there, but only as one subplot amongst all the rest; it’s more prominent early on than Jim and his crisis of faith, but it just isn’t the major plot I thought it was going to be. I was looking forward to Anne’s version of ghosts, quite honestly, and what little I got was disappointing. Marchent’s ghost is more talked about than actually present on-page, and I expected her to be doing a bit more active haunting than she actually did. The whole novel was very episodic, much more so than I remember prior Anne Rice books being. I think she should have picked one or two of the five or so subplots and really focused on expanding them and doing a good job, as opposed to superficially skimming through a bunch of things. After all, this series is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Why rush?
Like I said before, don’t read this unless you love Anne Rice, or werewolves, or both. I enjoyed it much more than my review probably makes you think I did. But it’s definitely a book one should not think that much about. Because when you think about it, everything completely falls apart. That being said, I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series, for reasons that are very convoluted and involve the memory of a sixteen year old version of myself discovering a dark fictional world that still captivates her twenty-two years later.