In which the winter of 1973 brings more than lots of snow to Collinsport, Maine – it also heralds the return of Barnabas’ vampiric state; a budding romance between young scion David Collins and Jackie Harpignies, the troubled young woman living in the rebuilt Old House with her mother Antoinette; the destruction of Quentin’s portrait which protects him against old age and lycanthropy; and the arrival of Dr. Nathanial Blair, a paranormal investigator whose meddling threatens to expose the Collins family’s many dark secrets…
As the rambling synopsis above indicates, Wolf Moon Rising can’t be accused of lacking plot strands. If anything, the book probably could’ve stood some pruning so that it didn’t feel quite so bursting at the seams. Still, I’d much rather criticise a book for attempting to do too much rather than too little!
Following almost directly on from Parker’s previous Dark Shadows novel The Salem Branch – new readers may want to read that one first so they’re up to speed – Wolf Moon Rising takes a while to get going, but once it finds its pace, maintains it through to the end. Some readers may be disappointed that the book focuses on David and Quentin more than Barnabas, but considering the latter’s frankly despicable actions throughout the novel, this is perhaps for the best.
Free of the censorship inherent in a daytime afternoon timeslot from over 40 years ago, Parker has characters indulging in drug use, using coarse language, mentioning taboo subjects like homosexuality and committing acts of brutality. Whether or not these actions are a logical extension of Dark Shadows’ supernatural horror premise, or wanton descents into Grand Guignol will be up to the individual reader to decide. Rather more distasteful is the revelation of a previously-undocumented relationship between Quentin and his great-niece Elizabeth, when a séance inadvertently sends David and Jackie back in time to 1929, when Prohibition turns Collinwood into a battleground between the Feds, the Mafia and even the Ku Klux Klan!
Similarly, the wholesale lifting of several scandalous events from actress Joan Bennett’s life and applying them to her Dark Shadows character Elizabeth’s history is either a brilliantly “meta” move which opens up new vistas to the Mistress of Collinwood, or a frankly tacky one; another thing that readers will have to decide for themselves.
Verdict: Sprawling and occasionally rambling, Wolf Moon Rising isn’t afraid to rewrite Dark Shadows continuity in order to tell a compelling tale. Whether or not this is the tale that fans actually wanted is another matter entirely, but there’s no denying the power, talent and ferocity of Parker’s efforts. 7/10
John S. Hall