Talulla Rising, Glen Duncan’s sequel to 2011’s The Last Werewolf, is a great example of a slow-burning novel. It starts quietly, in an isolated cabin in Alaska, and quickly becomes a mysterious chase spanning the globe as our heroine attempts to avert the murder of her child in a cult ceremony.
Oh yeah, and our heroine is a werewolf who eviscerates and devours at least one human being each month.
First things first: I suggest playing this video as you read my review. (And yes, it’s taken from the werewolf playlist I’ve mentioned previously.)
I won’t keep you in suspense; I really, really enjoyed this book. It had much of the same black humor as the first book, and the same frenetic energy. Instead of following Jake, we follow Talulla–the new last werewolf–as she waits to give birth to her dead partner’s child/pup. Everything quickly goes to hell. In the interests of avoiding spoilers, I won’t detail exactly how or why.
I was wary of Talulla at first. She introduces herself as a bad girl, a nasty girl, a girl who has always done what she wanted, even before she became a monster every full moon. Not…the most endearing qualities, but I don’t need to actively like every character I read about, even if it’s the main character. Honestly, I think I just felt somewhat more detached from Talulla than I did from Jake. Duncan is a masterful writer, but it took me a while to really believe in Talulla and her voice; for stories written in a first-person narrative, a reader not believing in your POV character can be the kiss of death. I had the thought, more often than once, that Duncan was perhaps not as comfortable–or at least, as believable–writing from a woman’s perspective. I do, however, applaud his effort, and once the pace picked up, I found myself understanding Talulla a bit better, and even admiring her particular thoughts and skills as distinct from Marlowe’s.
She discovered that not only could she kill and eat people once a month, but she could kill and eat people once a month and love it.
There are many familiar faces, including Cloquet (love him!), Madeleine, and Mia. Their inclusion and contributions to the plot were frequently wonderful and unexpected. The evolution of Cloquet from a drug-addicted, foolish, love-struck man into Talulla’s companion was perhaps, to me, one of the most unambiguously positive outcomes of the last book. And though the specter of Jake hangs over Talulla (and Madeleine), having him there was nice for the reader–both for continuity and for the sheer enjoyment of his familiar voice.
The first third of the book does drag somewhat, as the action is sporadic, and bookended by long periods of waiting. It is also a bit more introspective, as Talulla contemplates her troubling reaction (or rather, non-reaction) to going through birth. Intellectually, I can appreciate Duncan’s choice to delve into postpartum bonding issues, but my Id was all, “I want bloody werewolf violence! And I want it NOW!”. Luckily, the action does pick up after Talulla and her companions find the scent of the ones who stole her baby/pup. (You may or may not be surprised at who is doing the kidnapping.)
While a few of the twists fell flat, in my opinion, (such as the built-up reveal of Delilah Snow), the majority were genuinely surprising and completely intriguing. Even having Talulla experience postpartum bonding issues was a surprising choice–you’d imagine a werewolf mother to be immediately protective of her pups, and yet Duncan chose to have her struggle with feelings of numbness, confusion, and guilt instead. I really appreciated the forethought and subtlety of many of these twists, some of which had their groundwork first laid out in The Last Werewolf. I mean, I’m a graduate student who a) has little free time and b) basically has to read academic texts and journals for a living, and I read this book in four days. That’s often the highest praise I can give!
By the novel’s end, Talulla had proven herself to be a worthy successor to Marlow. And while some of the book’s mysteries have been solved, Duncan has thrown even more questions into the mix. I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next.
Talulla Rising comes out in June 2012. I received this book free for review through NetGalley.
Bookwanderer Rating: Four out of five stars
Bookwanderer Tagline: “Expect the absurd, Jake had warned me. Expect the risible twist, the ludicrous denouement. Expect the perverse. It’s the werewolf’s lot.”