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Glen Duncan
Talulla Rising
Alfred A. Knopf / Random House
US First Edition Hardcover
ISBN 978-0-307-59509-6
Publication Date: 06-26-2012
360 Pages; $25.95
Date Reviewed:07-05-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  Horror  Fantasy  Mystery  General Fiction  

Glen Duncan's 'The Last Werewolf' was a highlight of last year's reading, an outstanding new take on a well-worn supernatural trope. Happily Duncan announced at the time it was the first of a trilogy, and now the second book in the series, 'Talulla Rising,' has arrived. 'Talulla Rising' can be read on its own, but the merits that make that possible also make it a superior second book in a trilogy, always a tricky proposition. If you're reading this review and you have not read the first book, do so; your only regret will be not having done so last year.

Talulla Demetriou, who tells the story, is raw, rough and angry. As the novel begins, she's pregnant and in hiding from vampires and WOCOP, the human hunters in charge of thinning the supernatural herds. In a trice, things go from bad to worse; worse even than Talulla can imagine, let alone predict. Now, she and her child are in danger from everyone in their general vicinity. She must hunt the hunters and the vampires, literally a lone wolf taking on those whose names might as well be legion, and the legions behind them. Readers will be quickly aware that there will be a lot of blood, a lot of violence, a lot of action and that the hearts we encounter are as likely to be ripped still beating from the chests of those who bore them as they are to be figurative metaphors for love and affection.

'Talulla Rising' is heavily and well plotted. Unlike many middle books in trilogies, it does spectacularly well in having a real beginning and a strong ending, while maintaining continuity between 'The Last Werewolf' and the third book in the series, at this point titled 'By Blood We Live.' Essentially the book is a chase scene, with Talulla on the run in the beginning and on the trail of those who would do her and those she loves harm soon after. Motives click, plans are revealed, and Duncan does a creditable job of opening up his supernatural universe. The vampires are waging an internecine war against a vampiric religious cult that has designs on Talulla, while the human hunters are also engaged in a fight between two rival factions with different approaches to the supernatural. The threads are intricately and well woven between smashing set pieces. This book is every bit the page-turner that 'The Last Werewolf' was.

Of course, plot was not the only or even the major draw of that novel; it was the narrative voice of Jake Marlowe. It didn't matter what he was on about or what was happening, Jake Marlowe had the sort of quirky black humor that made reading fun. Talulla Demetriou, who narrates this book, is not Jake, or even, very much like him, but she's just about as much fun to read. Where Jake was world-weary and bored, Talulla is raw and sexually alive, engaged in every moment with a sensuous arrogance that in many ways is the polar opposite of Jake's narrative style. That said, the feel of the two novels is similar in that both protagonists are in conflict with pretty much the entire world around them. Talulla is way, way, over the top so far as her outspoken and outgoing sexuality are concerned. It's a style choice, not a turn-on, and consistently entertaining and well done.

The characters who return from the last novel and those we meet here are a thoroughly entertaining bunch to spend time around. Duncan creates a villain every bit the match for his heroine, and lines up others in the queue who are charming where this gent is, well, awful. We see some interesting developments with regards to the on-going battle between humans and vampires and Talulla. Duncan's a canny writer, and he gives us new characters in this novel that we clearly are meant to and do anticipate seeing in the finale.

'Talulla Rising' is more than an entirely enjoyable and effective sequel to 'The Last Werewolf.' Like that novel, this one is filled with great sentences and witty, pithy explorations of what is means to be human by way of being inhuman. Duncan uses the elements of the fantastic to give us a ringside seat not just on the battle between vampires and werewolves, but as well the conflict between men, women and every day of the lives we are allowed to live. As we find the heart of each day, it is best consumed still beating, fresh, filled with blood.

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