Book Review: Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

Book Review: Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

I can’t talk about Talulla Rising without talking about its predecessor, The Last Werewolf and what happened in it, especially some major twists toward the end. So consider this your obligatory spoiler alert. SPOILERS AHEAD! Caveat lector — let the reader beware.

Now that that’s out of the way…

The Last Werewolf was one of my favorite books of 2011. Simply put, I was blown away by the language as well as the plot. Glen Duncan’s writing is extraordinary, and the voice he created for lead character Jake Marlowe was remarkable. In a nutshell, The Last Werewolf is a first-person narrative told from the perspective of the titular character Jake, who is, in fact, the very last werewolf in existence. After a lifespan of 200 years, WOCOP (the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena) has finally succeeded in wiping out the rest of his species and has let it be known that Jake is next. Jake is world-weary, bone-weary, and overall rather sick of it all, so he decides to let WOCOP hunt him down and put an end to it, once and for all.

AND THEN… (and this is where the serious spoilers arise, so — last chance — avert your eyes now!)… Jake meets Talulla, and discovers that he’s not the last after all. Talulla is a recently turned werewolf, who quickly becomes his lover, his soulmate, and his partner in monstrosity. The pair go on the road, a lupine Bonnie and Clyde, but their joy in finding true love is not fated to last. Suffice it to say, The Last Werewolf does not end with a happily-ever-after.

Talulla Rising opens several months after the conclusion of The Last Werewolf. Jake is gone, and Talulla is alone in the world, pregnant, and full of despair. Her pain over the loss of Jake is intense; her fears of impending motherhood are enormous. Can a monster be a mother? What will her child be, and how can she make sure it survives? When her newborn werewolf son, born during Talulla’s full-moon transformation, is brutally ripped from her arms by a familiar team of enemies, events are set in motion that lead to ongoing violence, desperate acts, and unlikely alliances.

Along the way, despite Talulla’s efforts to harden her heart and not let herself love, she becomes a fierce mother/protector, whose only motivation is to save her young, no matter the expense.

Talulla Rising is not for the easily disturbed. If scenes of bodily mayhem make you queasy, this will not be your cup of tea. The violence is brutal, explicit, and quite often disgusting — although, frankly, it is a team of scientists rather than any supernatural beings who carry out the worst of the atrocities committed in the course of this book.

As in the first book, Glen Duncan’s writing is magnificent. His use of words continues to astound, as he twists and turns the English language to his will. I found Talulla’s voice a little too similar to Jake’s at times, but that’s a minor complaint.

While the first book had plenty of action, it focused to a great degree on Jake’s internal dialogue. Talulla Rising is much more plot-driven, with events and disasters piling up at a tremendous clip.

When I finished The Last Werewolf, the story felt complete, and I had no idea that a sequel was planned. Likewise, after finishing Talulla Rising, I read this Q&A with Glen Duncan and was surprised to learn that this is, in fact, a trilogy, and that a third and final book is forthcoming. While some plot threads are left dangling at the end, Talulla Rising ends on a satisfying note and is complete on its own, so that it was not immediately evident to me that the author planned a follow-up. That said, I’ve truly enjoyed these two werewolf novels by Glen Duncan, and will certainly gobble up the third as soon as it’s available.

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