Second in Rice’s series (The Wolf Gift, 2012) featuring a cultured pack of do-gooder werewolves.
Reuben, a newly minted Man Wolf, has moved into the Northern California mansion he inherited from the lovely, mysterious and now late Marchent. The mansion, situated in a vast woodland, is also home to several older (in some cases ancient) men who are, when the occasion requires, werewolves. Among these “Distinguished Gentlemen” are Marchent’s uncle Felix, a giant named Sergei, the well-mannered Thibault, and the leader and conscience of the pack, Margon. The Gentleman are inducting the beginner werewolves, including Stuart, a young gay man, and Reuben’s latest ladylove, Laura, into new, immortal life. The group is preparing for a gala Christmas party they hope to make an annual tradition. The party will be followed by the midwinter rites, which the werewolves (known as Morphenkinder) have celebrated since time immemorial and which, in some packs, involves human sacrifice. Not Margon’s pack, however. His men (and women) wolves have a special instinct for sniffing out and mauling evildoers, particularly those who abuse and molest children. In fact, one night, after Reuben’s wolf persona emerges involuntarily, he rescues a kidnapped little girl, then devours most of her captor. The Gentlemen must put the public off the scent of their true identities, whence the party. But Reuben’s human entanglements pose complications. Marchent, who was murdered, is haunting Reuben, and Felix must enlist the aid of another supernatural group, the Forest Gentry, a kind of ethereal, chamois-clad tribe, to entice her troubled spirit away from the house. Reuben’s hated ex-girlfriend is about to give birth to his baby, and his father has decided to temporarily move into the mansion, where he will be the only resident who is not only mortal, but not privy to the werewolves’ secret. This complex fantasy world relies on an elaborate substructure of lore and history, and the action slows as points of exposition are repetitiously belabored.
Fans will welcome Rice’s return to the realm of eccentric immortal predators.