Book: Talulla Rising
Series: The Last Werewolf, #2
Author: Glen Duncan
Reviewed by: Ellyce
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Following the publication of Twilight was a nauseating wave of vampire novels that generally left other supernatural creatures neglected or pushed to the side, with none more so than the werewolf. Last year, Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf was a winning tour de force that reinvented the werewolf myth and had critics hailing that werewolves had finally “gotten their due”. It was a delightful read that was fun, intelligent, witty, and sexy. As always, the question with sequels is: can it possibly live up to its predecessor? In this case, readers can rest assured that although it’s not quite what The Last Werewolf was, Talulla Rising is indeed able to match pace.
Talulla Rising continues with the cliffhanger that The Last Werewolf had us reeling from, as the titular heroine prepares to give birth in a remote area of Alaska, while she is wanted by both WOCOP and the vampires. Her only companion (besides the prisoner that they’re keeping in the basement for Talulla’s transformation on the full moon) is her human familiar, Cloquet. They’re stockpiled to the brim with weapons, but this doesn’t stop a group of vampires from storming into the house and snatching Talulla’s son, Lorcan, while she is in the process of giving birth to twins. Although she’s aided in the fight by wolves and the loyal Cloquet, the vampires manage to get away. So begins Talulla’s quest throughout the rest of the book to get back her newborn son, with twists and turns around every corner.
Talulla is a heroine that is easy to like, even if it might seem like you can’t relate to her. She has such a sharp, biting, and human narrative that it’s hard to not to do so. Duncan’s works all have an overlying theme of people being not black or white or even blandly grey, but complex creatures with designs and characteristics that make them all their own. We can see this in Talulla’s thoughts and actions – even as her son has been taken, she numbs herself to the thought, making her feel a lot of guilt. Life goes on, with its nuances and ho hum routines. There’s a great many instances in the book where Talulla thinks about this and wonders if she is a bad mother for it. If anything, her doubt about her abilities makes her story a bit heartbreaking, even though she’s such a strong person that you know she’ll figure her way out of whatever fix she’s stuck in.
The unique werewolf aspects that were seen in The Last Werewolf are evidenced once more in Talulla Rising, but this time with a female narrator. The frequent sexual urges and consumption of a human once a month are key to the storyline. Duncan’s werewolves don’t just eat humans when they transform once a month – they get their thoughts and lives, too. Attempts at being a vigilante and eating only criminals doesn’t bode well, for the wulf wants all – good and bad, old and young, rich and poor. Absorbing someone else’s entire life certainly gives werewolves a broader perspective than anyone would normally have.
The vampire sect that holds Lorcan hostage believe that by sacrificing him in a ritual at the correct lunar phase, they will gain the ability to walk in the sunlight, et al, as the oldest living vampire, Remshi, returns. Talulla soon finds herself joined by two rogue WOCOP agents, Mikhail and Walter. Over the course of the story, there is a variety of supernatural and human personalities that Talulla interacts with, and it’s all done in a clever way that doesn’t serve to simply throw characters or revelations at us. It’s fascinating to see the portrayal of the vampires, humans, and werewolves as they strive to fulfill their own goals and screw everyone else over.
There is no doubt when you’re reading this book about how it will end. It’s the getting there that makes it so much fun and gives it a unique quality. It’s a crazy road from start to finish, and even if things may conclude how you expect them to, the story manages to be surprising and remarkable in its own right. Glen Duncan is a gifted writer and master of words, and his skill flows through the pages so well that it’s what makes his books as good as they are. There are writers that have mediocre writing but great plots, or great writing but mediocre plots, but Duncan is a writer who is distinctive in that he has both, making him truly stand out, although he unjustly isn’t recognized enough for his brilliant work.
Talulla Rising, although a fantastic novel, doesn’t outshine The Last Werewolf. There’s certainly a great plot line, constant action, and a host of interesting characters, but it isn’t quite the same. Still, this doesn’t mean that it’s a disappointment – on the contrary, it is an almost perfect sequel. Although not quite as good as its predecessor, Talulla Rising is the next best thing – exquisitely crafted, beautifully narrated, and a rare gem in the onslaught of clichéd paranormal books that fill the shelves today.