Review: Glen Duncan Revisits Werewolf Territory in 'Talulla Rising'

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Glen Duncan‘s The Last Werewolf was a literary bolt of lightning, an unexpectedly engaging and intelligent toe-dip in the waters of horror genre fiction. It wasn’t just that it was ultraviolent (think American Psycho with fangs), or dirty, or unbelievably sardonic. It was also smart, insightful, and dripping with humor so dark that you found yourself feeling ashamed to be laughing at it. The Last Werewolf felt like the first publication of something entirely new. (For our review of The Last Werewolf, and our interview with Glen Duncan, click here.)

Perhaps it was too much to expect Duncan to be able to pull off the same trick twice. While the sequel, Talulla Rising – the second in a planned trilogy – covers much of the same territory as The Last Werewolf, some of the sting has gone out of Duncan’s tale. It’s still violent, and rude, and steeped in blood, but the second time around this doesn’t shock as much as it used to. Maybe the novelty only took one book to wear off.

Of course, The Last Werewolf had more than just novelty going for it, and Talulla Rising is still a cut above most genre fiction. Jake Marlowe, the hero of Book One, is dead, but in his wake he’s left Talulla Demetriou, the American woman who he accidentally turned without even knowing that he could. Talulla is also pregnant with their child, throwing a whole new twist into the mix – how would a werewolf birth even work? We find out quickly, as Talulla gives birth to not one but two bouncing baby werekids. One – the son, who she names Lorcan – is stolen from her at birth by a vampire cult awaiting the return of a daywalking Messiah. So begins the plot, as Talulla chases after her kidnapped babe-in-arms (while nursing another child at her breast, I might add).

The pregnancy element of the plot adds enough new material to keep Talulla Rising feeling fresh, but Talulla herself simply isn’t as engaging as the werefather, Jake Marlowe. While Marlowe’s sardonic, world-weary voice was a large part of what made The Last Werewolf so engaging, Talulla Demetriou is a more straightforward character. Duncan tries to give her some foibles of her own, but there’s nothing to match Jake’s biting wit, or his droll acceptance of who he is and what he has become. It makes sense that Talulla, a younger werewolf, would have a more vigorous, less jaded outlook on life – but it just isn’t as interesting.

Narrative twists and some excellent set pieces keep Talulla on the rise, and it’s still so far beyond most werewolf fiction that it almost deserves to be in a genre of its own. Those of you expecting another bite at The Last Werewolf, however, will be disappointed. Sometimes sequels can be a bitch.

Talulla Rising is available now from all good bookstores, and the Random House website, priced $25.95.

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