I have no interest in werewolves. Most modern depictions seem to involve bad special effects, stupid love triangles and random pointless blood spatter and, weirdly, some sort of vampiric involvement for no good reason. Werewolves hold no interest for me, less even than vampires, which at least have Bram Stoker and Polidori to give them some merit (and that said I do like the Sookie Stackhouse books and Vampire Academy for being moreish and highly entertaining, but that is another matter entirely).
Now, though, I’ve seen the light. There IS a point to werewolves. They CAN be brilliantly done.
MD Lachlan’s Wolfsangel is a take on werewolves that draws in threads of Norse mythology, dank, dangerous witchcraft and brilliantly pitched mythic language to create a book that felt otherworldly and convoluted in a way I didn’t expect from what I’d heard about it beforehand. King Authun, a mighty warrior, seeks the child that a witch queen’s prophecy has told him will bring his people glory – only he finds twin boys instead. One is brought up as his son, a prince, while the other is brought up, wolf-like, in the wilderness. The witch, easily one of the most unsettling characters I’ve read, sits in her dark caves and spies through hallucinatory, mind-expanding visions on the boys as they grow and on the world around them; and there’s so much more to it, a mixture of classic fantasy coming-of-age in the prince Vali and his relationship with Adisla, a lot of horror as well, and even a little bit of political intrigue and betrayal.
It’s hard to explain exactly what this book is but it’s very much the kind of novel that crosses genre boundaries, and although I freely admit that it was hard-going at times as I’ve discovered that I’m quite squeamish when it comes to people being eaten (it was described brilliantly, I will point that out) but well worth the effort. There are gods and monsters and witches and quests and long-lost brothers and love triangles in which the emo-angst isn’t the focus (YES!) and it’s all worked together with excellent writing.
Wolfsangel is one of those rare things – a novel with an epic storyline in line with the epics of old, complete with epic language and characters drawn from mythic tropes and seemingly controlled by fate that still manage to act independently and surprise you. It feels so ancient, so steeped in age and old magics, filled throughout with a deep unease and visceral authenticity, that it was hard to pull myself out of it and enjoy the impromptu early summer we’ve been having.
It’s not a fun read, but it is a great one. I’m very interested to see how the series develops from here – it can be read as a standalone work, but I get the feeling that the internal mythology MD Lachlan is building will have some excellent pay-offs.
Solid 4/5, because I’m not as comfortable with the violence as I once might have been, and it is a harsh book, but it is very, very good.