Title: The Wolf
Author: Leo Carew
Series: Under the Northern Sky #1
Rating: 3/5 stars
The Overview: The Wolf is a thrilling, savagely visceral, politically nuanced, and unexpectedly wry exploration of power – and how far one will go to defend it. Violence and death have come to the land under the Northern Sky. The Anakim dwell in the desolate forests and mountains beyond the black river, the land under the Northern Sky. Their ancient ways are forged in Unthank silver and carved in the grey stone of their heartland, their lives measured out in the turning of centuries, not years. By contrast, the Sutherners live in the moment, their vitality much more immediate and ephemeral than their Anakim neighbors. Fragile is the peace that has existed between these very different races – and that peace is shattered when the Suthern armies flood the lands to the north. These two races revive their age-old hatred and fear of each other. Within the maelstrom of war, two leaders will rise to lead their people to victory. Only one will succeed. -Goodreads
I’m not sure how to feel about this book.
On one hand, you have an interesting premise for a story (Neanderthal vs Human), some really poignant scenes, and lots of political intrigue. On the other, you have a loose plot structure that felt a bit under-composed at times, a flat main character who won his victories without struggle, and a few unrealistic details here and there that were enough to pull me out of the story.
It’s a mixed bag.
And to boot it wasn’t anything like I was expecting. I pictured a very Shadow of the Gods (Gwynne) atmosphere and setting where the indigenous aspect was played-up and it felt very cold and miserable. It wasn’t like that in the slightest. Taking up a more classic fantasy “urban” approach with cobbled streets and bustling cities. It was drastically different than I thought it would be, but I’m not holding that against it. It’s what I get for not reading the overviews carefully before starting (they generally contain too many spoilers!).
Overall I’d say I enjoyed the process of reading this tale, and the scenes that were good were really good. There were just too many minor things that added up to keep me from really loving this one. I tell you who the most interesting character was: wifey. She had a shrewd intelligence when dealing with others that was super fun to read. I love savvy characters. There were a few other good ones, but I didn’t feel much of a connection to them because they didn’t face any meaningful inner struggles. The society as a whole kept me plenty interested because it was cool to see the different philosophies of lifestyle and morals between the two factions. So what I lacked in character connection, at least I made up for in good world-building content.
Somewhere along the halfway point, I started to lose the thread of the plot (thanks Sonja, for the wording), and could not longer see what we were working towards. The scenes during these parts were strong, but they lacked a connection to the whole that eventually left me feeling a bit disengaged. I kind of zoned out near the end, only to have to backtrack over an hour to get the setup I missed for a big event. Then the epilogue happened and it was one of the best tension-generating scenes I’ve read in ages.
And now I’m reading the second book.
Recommendations: pick this one up for an interesting politically-driven fantasy. It’s not perfect, but it sure is entertaining.
Other books you might like:
by Niki Hawkes