Okay, I lied. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes was not the last book of summer. I had time for one more book before summer’s official end on Labor Day. I read Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan because I had to find out what happened after the end of The Last Werewolf, Duncan’s first werewolf novel. I described The Last Werewolf as “the thinking man’s werewolf story” – Talulla Rising is “the thinking woman’s werewolf story.”
Duncan opens the novel with Talulla isolated in the Alaskan wilderness, accompanied only by her faithful familiar Cloquet, on the verge of giving birth to Jake’s offspring. Bang, the story leaps into action as Talulla goes into labor six weeks early while in the throes of her transformation to werewolf; meanwhile the cabin is under attack by vampires led by her new arch enemy, Jacqueline Delon. They snatch the newborn boy, leaving Talulla to give birth to his twin sister in the shambles of the bloody aftermath of the attack. Now Talulla must find her son before he is sacrificed to Jacqueline’s vampire cult’s quest to walk in daylight, involving Remshi, the oldest vampire in the world.
All the action, blood and gore aside, Duncan gives us the female, even the feminist, side of the werewolf equation in Talulla’s struggles to come to terms with reconciling her human and werewolf natures. She chastises herself for being an unfit mother at the same time she is fighting fiercely to recover her son. She struggles with her longing for a connection beyond the casual sex pressed on her by her burgeoning libido with each waxing moon, knowing the dangers of loving a man that she could very well kill and eat as her werewolf self. The only way she could find a true match again now that Jake is dead is by turning a lover into a werewolf by biting him, but she knows how that could end with her lover hating her for changing him. She fears to love anyone, even her children, but yet she longs to make that human connection.
Duncan’s werewolves do not waste a moment of guilt on the people they kill and eat when transformed, no more than we do when we eat that juicy hamburger straight from the grill. But they do spend time wondering about their place in the world and about their relationship to other members of their own species and humanity. I am hoping that Mr. Duncan continues Talulla’s story in a third book so I can see how she works out her issues. Talulla is downright fascinating as a woman and a werewolf.