Home > Genre, urban fantasy > Book Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Book Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Phases of the moon on a black background.Summary:
Jacob Marlowe finds out he’s the last werewolf living and has just been informed by the WOCOP that they plan to kill him during the next full moon.  That’s just fine with him.  He’s been living for almost 200 years and is just plain tired of it.  So he plans to let the WOCOP’s tails follow him and just let the death happen.  The fates don’t quite see it that way, though, and nothing quite goes according to Jake’s plans.

Think of this as what would have happened if Anne Rice chose to write about werewolves instead of vampires.  The Last Werewolf reads very much like Interview with a Vampire only with the characteristics of werewolves instead of vampires of course.  By this I mean that the sentences and story structure are incredibly literary while addressing the highly genre topic of werewolves.

Unlike vampires, werewolves must eat a human during each full moon or they become ill.  Animals are no substitute.  They cannot take a bite and leave the victim alive.  No, they must completely ravish the victim.  This is no weak True Blood style werepanther or werewolf that can simply shift at will and avoid killing people.  Jake is affected by The Hunger and must eat and kill to stay alive.  The rest of the month when he’s not in wolf form he has to come to terms with his actions.  The crux and root of the dilemma at the heart of the story is this:

We’re the worst thing because for us the worst thing is the best thing. And it’s only the best thing for us if it’s the worst thing for someone else. (page 197)

It’s quite the moral conundrum and is addressed eloquently in the story.

There is also of course Jake’s suicidal mentality.  He wants to die, but he doesn’t want to be the one to do it.  He’s completely over life.  Life is boring and pointless.  There are absolutely some beautifully depressing passages about the emptiness of life that both perfectly depict depression and remind me a bit of the Romantic period of poetry.  Think of Lord Byron.  That type of thing.  Beautifully suicidal.  That may bother some readers.  To me, it’s often a part of great literature.  This overwhelming sadness and feelings of helplessness.  They’re common human emotions and lend a great force to the narrative.

Now, I was sent this for review due to how much I enjoyed American Psycho in January, so I was expecting it to be graphically violent and sexual and have the two mixed-up.  It is all of those things but–dare I say it–it wasn’t quite violent enough for me.  I was expecting something shocking, due to the American Psycho  connection, but I can see a lot of people reading this and not being put-off by the amount of violence.  Compared to your average R rated action flick, it’s really not that bad.  On the other hand, a lot of people are profoundly disturbed by the violence in American Psycho.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the level of violence in this book, and I think Duncan was probably smart in that, since it will have a wider appeal.  What can I say.  I was looking forward to something incredibly gross and twisted and instead got a lot of beautiful prose with the occasional murder.  It was a happy surprise, absolutely.  I just want to make it abundantly clear to potential readers that if you can handle an R rated horror movie, you can definitely handle the violence in this book, so don’t be turned off!

So the prose is beautiful and the topics addressed and discussed are important or at least interesting, so why am I not raving?  The ending left me disappointed.  It felt rather cliche and expected, and I didn’t like what became the focus in the end.  There are so many other ways the ending could have gone that would have been amazing and powerful, but instead I finished this book and basically said, “AGH not this shit again.”  *mini-spoiler* It includes pregnancy and babies, and ya’ll know how I feel about that. *end mini-spoiler*

Overall this is a literary take on a genre theme.  It is violent and sexual, but not disturbingly so.  Recommended to fans of Anne Rice.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review

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  1. September 3, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Interesting, sounds more like my kind of horror, shame about the ending!! However you have reminded me I still haven’t read any Anne Rice! Shocking, I know!!

    • September 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      I will warn you that other reviewers seemed to find it gorier than I did, so…..proceed with caution? Lol.

      I am shocked you haven’t read Anne Rice! I think you would enjoy her, for sure.

  2. September 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I listened to the audiobook version of The Last Werewolf, and have delayed so long on posting a review that I may never get around to it, but I have to say the narration by Robin Sachs was pitch-perfect. I highly recommend listening to this book!

    I do think, though, that what might offend more general readers than the violence (although there is a lot of tearing limb from limb of innocent though usually not all that likeable people) would be the long passages on sexuality and sensuality that come extremely close to extolling the pleasures of bestiality, which is still pretty much a taboo in a society with very few sexual taboos left. Maybe these passages are more noticeable in the audio version. I really liked this book, but wouldn’t recommend it to any one who objects to reading frank descriptions of the sexual act and musings on how much of sexual desire and arousal is human and how much is animal.

    • September 11, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      I certainly didn’t perceive it as beastiality myself, since the only time sex happens when he’s in werewolf form is with another werewolf. If he raped and then killed/ate people while in werewolf form, I could see the concern, but otherwise, I guess I just don’t.

      However, I also am aware that I am not easily offended or disturbed by graphic depictions of anything, so that just might have escaped me when reading it, haha.

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