Reading The Wolves of Midwinter is much like sinking into a favorite chair or couch and cuddling up with a beloved blanket or sweater. While the first book concentrated on the physicality of Reuben and the emotional trauma of his transformation, this book emphasizes Reuben’s new surroundings, and nothing is too small to avoid its place in the narrative. The descriptions – of the house, of the woods, of the Yuletide festivities, of the Midwinter ritual – are unspeakably lush and sensual. Readers will find all of their senses heightened by the beauty and depth of Ms. Rice’s imagery and the minute details she includes in each of them. Even the more gruesome images are beautiful in their own right. The book is at once comforting and informative.
The Wolves of Midwinter begins shortly after The Wolf Gift ends, with very little fanfare or memory-jogging explanations. Reuben’s new family is firmly ensconced at Nideck Point while he still works to balance his new life and family with his old one. Whereas The Wolf Gift discusses much of Reuben’s transformation and adjustment to his new existence, its sequel focuses on solidifying the Morphenkinder family and educating Reuben into their traditions and other ways of life. He uncovers new ideas, new beings, and the dawning realization of what forever truly means.
While there is action, as must happen when wolves – even Man Wolves – are in the picture, The Wolves of Midwinter is more explanatory than action-driven. The focus on the Yuletide festivities and its sense of harmony the Morphenkinder are trying to establish around Nideck speaks to the need for tolerance throughout the world. There is also a surprisingly large amount of theology as Reuben works to balance his Catholic upbringing with that of his new-found knowledge. Many a discussion of God, God’s plan, and belief systems in general fill the pages of the novel.
With its focus on explanation rather than conflict, it is easy to dismiss The Wolves of Midwinter as a mediocre sequel that fails to forward the plot, and in many ways, this assumption is correct. The story does tend to meander pointlessly, and as many questions continue to exist as are answered. There are certain sub-arcs that really have no bearing on Reuben’s story other than that they involve his family members, and therefore he must play a role. Still, the beauty of the narrative and the exquisite descriptions make this anything but a mediocre sequel. It is an absolutely luscious glimpse into a very special and unusual family unit, one that makes a reader understand why they call becoming a wolf a gift rather than a curse.