Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf series is a powerful, engrossing, delicious delivery of violence, sex, musings on the why’s of life, questions about the nature of humanity (and monstrosity, as the case may be), and of course, werewolves.
What’s not to love?
And this is not your average paranormal novel. Naturally, to like the books you do have to be willing to put up with furry snouts and seemingly magical monthly transformations (and there are vampires), but Duncan gives us so much more than that. Duncan makes lycanthropy honest-to-goodness literary. The writing has humor, power, ecstatic moments, spunk and bite. And Talulla absolutely cannot be missed (more on her in a minute, I promise).
The Last Werewolf series currently consists of two books, The Last Werewolf and Talulla Rising, with a third, By Blood We Live, expected out this February. The Last Werewolf begins with Jacob Marlowe, our narrator and a 201-year-old lycanthrope who likes his scotch, lives with his kills, and is otherwise pretty well convinced that he’s over this whole existence thing. That is, until he finds out that he’s the last werewolf and that some overzealous hunters are about to track him down and kill him with all of the pomp and circumstance of a ritual sacrifice. That gets Jake moving again. And while he’s leading these hunters on a merry chase, he bumps into Talulla—and love changes everything. Again.
I don’t want to give too much away—the plotting is superb—but what you really need to know is that in Talulla Rising, the narrative baton is passed to Talulla. Which, believe me, is a great thing. Talulla is Amazing.
If you’ve read any of Glen Duncan’s other books (I, Lucifer, etc), you will pretty quickly recognize the tenor of Jacob Marlowe. And if you’re like me, you may even be a bit bored with Jake. The writing is fantastic, but if you’re over the idea of the main character it can be hard to keep reading, even when excellent writing beckons. But just when I was feeling like, “this book is just going to be sad sack anesthetized been-there, done-that, wonderless lycanthrope Jacob Marlowe, and I am having trouble caring,” Duncan did the most wonderful thing: enter Talulla.
Now, a large part of why I felt over Jacob Marlowe as a character is that I’ve read him before. I’ve read the disaffected man who clings to the “simple pleasures” of his scotch, has sad Wes Anderson-lit moments of utter loneliness in sterile hotel rooms, and even the dark twist of the werewolf—the required killing and eating—didn’t do much to dissuade me from feeling that Jake might be a little tired. That he didn’t hold much that was new or interesting for me. Now, to be fair, Jake is a wonderful narrator—the way he plays with language in his diary is great. Reading the Just Jake parts of the book were in no way a trial. They were linguistic fun at the very least. I just have trouble caring very much about Jake. Anyway, the point is, out of this sense of boredom with Jake came Talulla, blazing with light and reordering the universe (I’m not even being that hyperbolic, I swear).
I have never read a character like Talulla before. Talulla is calculating, wicked, loving, devious, delightful, and by turns repulsed by, fascinated with, and accepting of her transformation. Talulla takes the Madonna/Whore dichotomy and eats it alive. Then she becomes a woman king. I’m not kidding. That’s a real thing that happens. She’s amazing. And Duncan writes her with breathtaking perception and precision.
There are other great characters, other great aspects and moments, but the plot is all so seamlessly interwoven that I don’t want to accidentally spoil these gems for you. It’s so much better when you realize that you really should have seen it coming but treated the key to the plot like a throw away line. I can’t deprive you of that.
Read The Last Werewolf series*.
Including By Blood We Live, which just came out last month.
*Unless you’re a child. These books are not for children. I’d say high school is fine, but I tend to have relaxed ideas around what content is suitable for high schoolers (maybe 16 and up?). Let’s put it this way: these books contain violence, sex, and blood in rather graphic ways. They also contain gorgeous writing and dangerous ideas. Enjoy.