The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

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Rating 8.8/10
Full-on horror fantasy written with poetic subtlety.

If there is one thing I most definitely am not, that is a werewolf fiction aficionado. I can't in all honesty think of another pure werewolf book I've read, although I have of course read books where werewolves feature at some point - and watched several famous films - I believe Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf must be the first book I've read in which the lycanthrope plays the lead, and fortunately for me it was very good.

The titular last werewolf is Jacob Marlowe, whose man-self has lost the will to live. For two hundred years he has wandered the world, enslaved by his lunatic appetites, tormented by the memory of his first and most monstrous crime. He knows he cannot go on but as he counts down to suicide, a violent murder and an extraordinary meeting plunge him straight back into the desperate pursuit of life and love.

What The Last Werewolf did really well was engage me from the very first page, something which is of course very important. The opening pages reminded me very strongly of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, what with the pea-soup fog outside and two men within conversing in a way I found not to be too dissimilar from that of the Holmes and Watson dialogue I've always loved. Everything soon changes of course, and rather quickly too, but the introduction of Jake Marlowe, his long-time confidante Harley, and London itself, resulted in the book having me immediately and firmly within in its grip.

I suppose you could describe this book as a full-on horror fantasy containing werewolves and vampires, featuring an ever-twisting and turning plot. And while that would be accurate it doesn't go far enough and should be followed up by the statement that there is far more to it than just that. The author is very skilled with the words he uses, his prose is often poetic, lilting, and the narrative is not just about thrills, chills and an ever-increasing body-count (although those things do occur) because Duncan succeeds in exploring the werewolf's psyche in such a successful way that he manages to evoke empathy from the reader for what is effectively a remorseless, cursed, cold-blooded killer.

I feel I should warn/prepare potential readers about/for the explicit sex that feature in the book as it is not of the type that you might have become accustomed to while reading fellow horror authors like Stephen King and James Herbert, who now seem almost prudish in comparison. These sex scenes are very graphic, detailed and realistic accounts that are often animalistic in nature (understandable under the circumstances). I personally was fine with how graphic these parts were, although there was a moment mid way through when I thought it went on a little too long, but again I understood the importance laid upon it.

Duncan, a former philosophy student, is an author with a fine command of the English language. His clever use of words form a narrative whose most interesting moments come when he looks at the similarities/differences between humans and animals, and how being 'civilised' can be at conflict with our inherent primal self. There is a wild animal within us all after all, tamed and constrained admittedly, but always there, always lurking, patiently waiting.

Even though, as I have already explained, I am no expert I feel that I can still confidently say that Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf must be amongst the best this specific sub-genre has to offer. Yes, it's a fantastical romp with lots of sex but it is also a moving, often grotesque look at human life. Highly recommended for werewolf/horror fans.

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