The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Posted On 9 February 2014

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Just finished reading The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.  I’ve got mixed feelings on this book in fact, quite fittingly, have almost been having an argument with myself about the pros and cons.  Part of me thinks that some of the concepts here are really original and fascinating but part of me feels it’s pretentious in parts not to mention a protagonist who just, to be honest, got on my nerves all mixed up with massive amounts of sex that frankly not only became tedious but were actually quite far from anything resembling ‘sexy’ – and yet, in spite of all that, I admit I would continue with this series!  Like I said – mixed feelings!!

The Good.  I liked GD’s take on werewolves.  We find out fairly early on that Jake is the last werewolf – no real surprise here given the actual title – and to say he’s in a slump with the constant and inevitable hunt is to understate his feelings somewhat.  Basically, Jake is tired of his existence.  He long ago came to terms with his own inner monster and lets face it he now kills and eats every month in order to stay alive.  No eating animals allowed here.  The inner wolf must be satiated by human flesh only and in devouring a person the wolf seems not just to partake of the blood and tissue but also the life story and in fact he seems to carry his victims’ memories around with him – which I did actually find quite a fascinating take – even if a bit creepy.

The tale is related by Jake in a journal that he keeps and I do like this form of story telling.

I like the fact that this doesn’t follow the ‘werewolf’ norm. Jake doesn’t run in a werewolf pack, he doesn’t have an alpha male and isn’t an alpha male himself.  He’s independent and free thinking making his own decisions and mistakes as he goes along.  As a result there isn’t the usual ‘pissing’ competition between Jake and the other werewolves as they try to work out whose monster is the biggest and baddest.  Quite refreshing not to have that particular ego fest being played out.

I like the twist and change in direction that takes place during the latter half of the plot.

The world is interesting and consistent.  We have werewolves – and so why not other monsters, such as vampires and demons.  It makes sense doesnt’ it!  Plus, we have an underworld of men in black – tracking and trying to eliminate the ‘baddies’.

The author is undoubtedly clever and knows how to turn a phrase plus he likes to include literary references that are interesting to spot along the way.

The Bad.  As I mentioned, the author can turn a phrase – unfortunately he can also be a little bit too much with his writing style which leads to it having a somewhat ‘I’m really clever and look what I just did there’ feel to it.  Now, I really had a good think about this.  Do I not like that because it in some way makes me feel dumb or am I feeling patronised?  To be fair I don’t think it’s either of those things actually.  It just feels unbalanced. There is some really good insightful writing here but unfortunately there is also some unnecessary and rather crude writing and the two just don’t sit well together for me.  I didn’t come away thinking, for example, that this was beautifully written (in the way you would after reading say Donna Tartt or Daphne DuMaurier), I didn’t come away thinking it was incredibly descriptive (maybe like Charles Dickens) and it didn’t manage to be evocative of an era (in the way that Anne Rice novels can be).  Overall it ends up feeling a bit jumbled – but perhaps that’s the author’s intention – after all the character has a monster creeping under his skin and is constantly reminded of his dual nature, so the writing style could be a reflection of this.  Unfortunately, however, it does make it a bit difficult to wade through in parts and has the effect of drawing your attention away from the story.  Plus, to say Jake is feeling jaded or cynical would be a massive understatement and so it can, at times, become a little bit gloomy reading what’s going on in his head.

The Ugly.  Okay, I understand that Jake is a monster and in one respect I like the fact that this comes across very strongly in the story.  This certainly isn’t a YA novel so the sex, violence and language are definitely in full effect.  If that makes you feel a bit uneasy or squeamish then be warned right now!  Frankly, I didn’t mind that the story contained these elements, you’re reading about an unsympathetic monster and so I think the author is spot on in the way he uses these elements to make you dislike Jake.  Well, he certainly made me dislike him.  It was just difficult not to.  But, again, I think that was intentional by the author and so quite cleverly done.  This is not a soft monster who can be tamed by love or is likely to risk himself by any self sacrificing or idealistic notions.  But, you’ve probably heard the phrase about using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, well, there’s a little bit of that going on here.  The constant mantra of ‘fuckkilleat’ – please give me a break.  I get it already.  Just, too much.  There’s a point in a story where you can literally just reach saturation level and this happens here for me and instead of all the sex and violence being something that’s used to define a character, or because it’s actually erotic (and the sex in this story is definitely used to show Jake’s animal nature so is neither sexy or erotic) – it moves over into something else where it almost feels a little uncomfortable or voyeuristic – like you’ve just walked in on someone and they’re in a compromising position!  Awkward.

Now, in spite of the bad and the ugly going on in this novel, I admit that I would probably continue with the series to see what happens next – mainly because I’m conflicted about the aspects of the story that I didn’t like and can’t decide if this was intentional or not on the part of the author.  I certainly didn’t hate the book or the way in which it’s delivered just I had a few problems and I think that I should be honest about them in a review.  Particularly as this book was provided to me from NetGalley for review purposes.  I certainly wouldn’t advise anybody to avoid this book but I would be clear about the issues I had.  That being said it will be interesting to see how the author handles the next instalment – especially given the ending of this story and the new character involved.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review.  The above is my own opinion.

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15 Responses to “The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan”

  1. brideofthebookgod

    I loved this, really enjoyed the second one (which as you will expect mixes things up a bit) and am about to start the third which has just come out. I didn’t have the same problems as you did which may just be a question of taste. Will be interested in what you think if you decide to persevere.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m definitely going to persevere – I think that with a lot of my ‘issues’ I was almost talking myself out of them as I was writing them! It seems that having written about what I thought were the more negative aspects and therefore having had time to ponder them more whilst doing so it made me feel differently about the author’s motives – that being said, I could have done with a little less sex! Not that I’m against sex in a novel but it started to feel a bit much – again, though – monster nature so probably inevitable!!
      Lynn 😀

      • brideofthebookgod

        Not wanting to give too much away about the sequel but sex continues to loom large!

      • lynnsbooks

        Haha, I figured it might – but – spoiler alert – I wondered if we would now read from the female perspective and I was interested to see how that would change things (or not?
        Lynn 😀

      • brideofthebookgod

        I didnt think it changed much at all but – spoiler alert – your comment about the sex being to do with the monster part probably explains that (if thats not too cryptic!)

      • lynnsbooks

        No – not too cryptic. I think a lot of the things that I was feeling i disliked are all strong parts of the monster – and, I’m not really supposed to like the monster! So, having thought about this more I must admit it’s quite clever of the author to be able to achieve that and also I suppose quite brave!
        Lynn 😀

  2. Lauren

    You’ve really gotten into the details of what bugs me about the writing – wonderful and often insightful, but a lot of the time it’s just too much. And Jake goes from being conflicted to whiny. I was ok with the crudeness and unsexy sex as part of werewolf existence, but the combination of very crude, introspective and elaborate style got very tiring.

    I enjoyed the second book much more. The narrator is still introspective but more down-to-earth and there’s so much going on that there’s less time for whining. I also found the reflection on being a monster more interesting. Still lots of weird sex but there’s more to think about than the fuckkilleat mentality.

    • lynnsbooks

      I’m actually sort of looking forward to reading the second book. Part of me was wondering if I was a little harsh with my review, but, I didn’t hate the book or anything, I just came away with things that irritated the hell out of me. When I was actually writing the review a lot of the things seemed clearer – like I could see why the author had written it that way – and, yet, even with that realisation it made it no less irritating. I do sort of admire the author for writing it this way and I’m certainly glad to have a proper monster instead of a werewolf with teenage angst. It will be interesting to read No.2 – did you review it? I must stop over yours and take a look…
      Lynn 😀

      • Lauren

        I do have a review – http://violininavoid.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/talulla-rising-by-glen-duncan/
        It may be a wee bit vague though because I left out most of the plot to avoid spoilers.

        I know what you mean about the difference between reading and writing the review. Often my notes or just the process of writing the review sometimes gives me a different impression of the book. Jake’s style suddenly sounded amazing when I was just reading through the quotes I liked, and I think that made me less critical of it. Some of the sex grossed me out, but in retrospect it suits this kind of werewolf.

        Now to see how book 3 goes… Was looking forward to it but started last night and this narrator is even worse than Jake 😦

  3. Booky Pony

    I’m in the “really enjoyed this” club, although I do see what you mean with the Bad and the Ugly. I confess I’m on occasion very fond of the macabre, so all the gruesomeness doesn’t really bother me too much. It’s also interesting that you mention Rice – I thought Jake and his past and angst were very reminiscent of Louis in Interview with the Vampire.
    As to the second book, I think I liked it better in the sense that the plot is more fast paced and, frankly, makes more sense, but at the same time I kind of missed the abundance of literary references.
    Am going to read the last part of the series when it comes out, though!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, the literary references were good – although I’m sure I missed most! This certainly gets very good reviews and I didn’t hate it or anything. I just had quibbles and they got under my skin (no pun intended there). I am still intending on reading the second because I want to see how it compares.
      Lynn 😀

  4. jessicabookworm

    I admit I had to skim read your post Lynn as I also have a copy of this to read. I wanted to get a feel for what you thought of it without giving away the plot to myself 😛

    • lynnsbooks

      To be honest I barely touched on the plot. There were definitely things that irritated me with this book but not enough to stop me reading the second and it does receive a lot of positive reviews. In fact writing my review I think helped to clear my head on a number of the criticisms I had and sort of showed me what the author was actually doing.
      I hope you enjoy it and await your review.
      By the way – reading Longbourn by Jo Baker – it’s absolutely excellent – have you read it? I think you’d like it.
      Lynn 😀

      • jessicabookworm

        I haven’t read Longbourn but I would like too!

      • lynnsbooks

        It’s so good, I really want you to read it so we can chat!
        Lynn 😀

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