17 August 2012

Book Review: Talullah Rising by Glen Duncan

So, I finally got around to starting my copy of Glen Duncan's Talullah Rising.  Knopf didn't see fit to provide me with an ARC on this one (despite the fact that I was an early and avid reviewer of the first book, damn their eyes).  Even my sales reps were unable to procure an ARC of this for me, so I had to wait for them to send me a complimentary finished copy and then wait until I had a big enough gap in my reading to fit this one in.

Let me start off by saying that apparently Jake *so* wasn't the last werewolf, as the children in my life might put it. There're werewolves a-plenty in Talulla Rising and they're not taking "no" for an answer. Tallulah is pregnant in the opening chapter, and she and her familiar, Cloquet, have sequestered themselves in a remote Alaskan lodge for the last full moon of her pregnancy.  Little do they know that a rogue sect of vampires are lying in wait to kidnap the werewolf baby in order to fulfill some bizarre Prophecy of Remshi, the first of all of the vampires. Which of course leads to an increasingly unbelievable series of rescue operations and daring escapes, because naturally the first time won't be successful, or else the book would only be 100 pages.

Like the first book, this book is well written and intensely graphic in terms of violence and sex, and those scenes are not always (or even often) mutually exclusive.  This time the author ratchets it up a notch or two with descriptions of torture in the name of science.

In other words, definitely not for the faint of heart.

I noted far fewer beautiful passages in this book than I did in The Last Werewolf; Talullah Rising is substantial, no doubt about it, but it lacks the lyricism of the first book. Here's one passage that caught my eye, though:
"I stood, transformed (jaws open, tongue as thick as a baby's arm, breath going up in signals of dreadful life), half a dozen trees back from the edge of the drive. Moments ago I hadn't wanted this. Now I wanted nothing else. Same every time: you forgot the Curse was an exchange, took your speech and your mercy but gave you in return the planet's dumb throb and your own share in it. Lilac shadows on the snow, the fine-tuned trees, the Eucharist moon and the victim's heart like a song calling you home."
I think the book would be better served with fewer action-y scenes and more existentialism.  Seems like this time around, every few chapters there was a major crisis or a rescue operation gone amuck and time is running out and OMG will they make it? This false sense of adrenalin certainly makes for a page-turning reading experience but an ultimately forgettable (or at least conflateable) series of events. Too bad, because Mr. Duncan really raised the bar with his first book and redefined the genre

I hope that in the next installment that Mr Duncan will provide readers with less flash & adrenaline, more substance and genre-bending expectations.  He introduces in the last couple of chapters the character who is, arguably, the most interesting (or at least the most mysterious) in the book, and if Marco doesn't play a lead role in the next book, then I'll revoke my book reviewing license faster than you can say, "Reader, I ate him."

There's only one thing left to be said, and that is to note what a pleasure it is to read a thing of beauty like this book.  Knopf usually provides good production qualities and solid typography & design, but the two Glen Duncan books really stand out.  The first one was cloaked in a minimal black dust jacket with blood red page edges.  This time around the jacket is blood red with black-edged pages.  Both have alchemical icons printed in an iridescent gold, and I hope that dust jacket on book three will be that same iridescent gold (like Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet that Holt published over a decade ago). The gold would be both transcendent and reflective (two adjectives that describe the books themselves) and make for a splendid-looking book.


  1. Hey, I just finished Talullah, also! Did you have a problem with Mr. Duncan's referring to female masturbation as "jerking off"? I mean that's just... not... how that is done. Or possibly I've been doing it wrong.

    1. No, I'm pretty sure you're not doing it wrong...

      It jolted me out of the story the first time I read Talullah describing it as jrking off, but it didn't really bother me, as I've seen more than one author use that prhase for women.

  2. LOL! I'm ready to get into some good werewolf fiction...sounds like these might be a good place to start :)

    1. The Last Werewolf is a great place to start if you're interested in trying something new. If you love it like I did, then it's worth moving on to Book Two. But neither one is for the squeamish. If you read it, please let me know your thoughts!

  3. So sad to hear that Talullah doesn't raise the pie higher; I did fall hard for The Last Werewolf and had been saving my pennies...
    Such a beautifully written review. How do you manage to produce so much stellar prose so regularly, lady?

    1. Your miles may vary, Laurie. I know a few booksellers who loved this book as much as the first one. and keep in mind that I pretty much blazed right through this one, so that's part of why some of the scenes conflated in my mind.

      As for your compliments, right back at you, lady. :)


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