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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong debut, but the book just stops in mid-flow, waiting for a sequel
Investigator Vissarion Lom is summoned to Mirgorod, capital of the Vlast, to help investigate a series of terrorist attacks in the city. Josef Kantor, the son of a famous revolutionary, is the chief suspect and Lom is soon on his trail. But a simple manhunt turns into something more serious. An angel has fallen to the earth in the vast forest thousands of miles to the...
Published 15 months ago by A. Whitehead

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start
Started off extremely well but then get more than a touch SF-mystical, tho not in a brilliant way. The opening premise is brilliant, however -- altho once you've bought in to this alien/real world -- this (as the Americans ungrammatically put it) Alternate World -- after a while some things do get a touch irritating. Still, all in all a pretty good start to a series --...
Published 14 months ago by jack adrian


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong debut, but the book just stops in mid-flow, waiting for a sequel, 31 Mar 2013
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Hardcover)
Investigator Vissarion Lom is summoned to Mirgorod, capital of the Vlast, to help investigate a series of terrorist attacks in the city. Josef Kantor, the son of a famous revolutionary, is the chief suspect and Lom is soon on his trail. But a simple manhunt turns into something more serious. An angel has fallen to the earth in the vast forest thousands of miles to the east. A devastating war between the Vlast and a grouping of island-nations to the west is coming to an end. And a spirit of the forest made manifest arrives in the city, seeking a young woman who may hold the key to the world's salvation.

Wolfhound Century has picked up a fair bit of advance buzz as a novel to watch for this year. It's easy to see why. Coming over as the result of a genetic experiment splicing the works of Chine Mieville, Ian Fleming and Robert Holdstock into a single entity, but with a few twists of the author's own invention, it's definitely a refreshing change from Generic Epic Fantasy #312. The book is set in a world where revolvers and airplanes exist alongside nature spirits and giants, a sort-of Soviet Russia that never was but where honest cops still have to get on with foiling crimes, even crimes involving alien space entities and objects of transdimensional quantum power. It's a glorious mash-up of genres and styles that works very well.

Higgins is telling a big story here, but by tightly restricting the points of view to just a few characters and by using short, sharp chapters he is able to get through the story with an enviable economy. Even better, that economy does not prevent the prose from being more ambitious than the SFF norm, with evocative flourishes and place and character undertaken in just a few deft sentences. The writing is superb and the characterisation excellent, with Lom and his nemesis Kantor both shown to be complex, damaged characters, and also both more than they initially appear.

Even more impressive is the melding together of different ideas and genres. There are SF ideas about quantum physics and alternate realities existing alongside rural fantasy notions of nature spirits and living woodlands. In the middle of this lies the alternate-Soviet tropes of secret police and investigations where the truth is subservient to perception and politics. It could be an unruly mess, but Higgins makes it work with aplomb.

Where the book not so much stumbles but falls flat on its face is the unexpectedly abrupt ending. Wolfhound Century has been advertised as having a sequel (already written and submitted, thankfully), Truth and Fear, due out in a year's time, so it was already known that this would probably not be a completely self-contained book. The problem is that at no point is it stated that Wolfhound Century is functionally incomplete as a novel. It doesn't so much climax as just stop. This isn't the first in a series, but the first chunk of a much longer single novel being published in multiple volumes. Some forewarning of this would have been appreciated. Also, given that Wolfhound Century is only 300 pages of pretty big type in length, the question arises of why this story is being published in such small chunks also arises.

Still, whilst Wolfhound Century (****) may be just the first chunk of a bigger story, it is still a finely-written and compelling story. Higgins has created an engrossing fantasy world which is a million miles away from the more played-out ends of the genre and all the better for it. The book would have simply benefited from either being held back until the entire story was complete, or a mention of its heavily serialised nature was given on the cover at some point. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely original and beautifully written., 20 May 2014
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Paperback)
This book has a very fragmented beginning. Don't give up; you won't regret it. Engaging characters in a complex world underpinned by an intriguing plot and luscious use of words.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An assured and engaging debut, 15 Mar 2014
By 
P. Kennard (Worcestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Kindle Edition)
In a totalitarian state, where everyone is watched and dissent is crushed without mercy, a disparate set of individuals are trying to change the status quo. But who is fighting for good and who for evil? And what of the bystanders, witnesses and unwilling participants?
In a world very similar to, but not quite our own, the rivers and towns will flood and there will be blood on the snow before the world can change.

Approaching this novel with no preconceptions or expectations, beyond mild curiosity, I found Wolfhound Century to be a thoroughly gripping and rewarding genre-crossing story.
Most of the novel reads like a cold-war thriller, based in a faux 1930s-1950s totalitarian state, with only the lightest coating of fantasy. But, like finger-thin slivers of ice, the fantasy elements puncture the John le Carre environment, gradually melting and merging until the two are inseparable.
And this is where some have appeared to struggle: is this a thriller or a fantasy? For me, it is a bit of both; mostly it is a dark and gripping thriller that uses fantasy to provide a strong element of originality to the story. It is quite clear that the fantasy element, already overtaking towards the end of this book, will be far more dominant in the next novel, but this is no bad thing, the subtlety of the shift is such that you are inescapingly drawn in.
Like a skilled chess game, Higgins introduces a broad range of characters, spread out across his 'not-quite Russia' board, some destined to be mere pawns to be removed when their role is completed, while others will take their place in the final battle.
But, which is which?
This is where the book has really excelled, characters are frequently not what they first appear and apparently major players unexpectedly exit the story in the most shocking of ways. Coupled with the slow-burn build of the story, you will find yourself stepping further into this world, accepting the history of the 'Angels' and fearing the grip of the Vlast.

The novel isn't quite perfect, the fragmentary nature of the first part makes it a little hard to get into, but it is necessary for the overall plot that these pieces exist. But is is well worth persevering and overall, I thoughly enjoyed it. This is one of the first books this year that I have actually sought out the sequel for. I look forward to its release.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rare beast of a debut, 16 May 2013
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Hardcover)
Wolfhound Century is a rare beast. I'd already read some reviews before receiving my own review copy of the book and I knew I was in for an interesting read. I hadn't expected it to be as interesting and genre-bending as it was, even though I'd been thoroughly warned. It's both noir urban fantasy, featuring a lone-wolf detective, but also a tale of political intrigue, supernatural creatures and alien invasion. Set in an alternate world Russia, the story is both easy and hard to place. Easy because Vlast is clearly the Soviet Union and Mirgorod is a version of Moscow and the atmosphere Higgins invokes is that which is emblematic of the majority view of communist countries: grey, depressing, paranoid, and dangerous. It's hard to place exactly because it is an alternate world version of ours and it is not really clear whether it is just an alternate history set on our planet or set on a secondary world. I'm leaning towards the latter option myself, but it is certainly debatable.

Higgins presents his Vlast with a lot of aplomb. It's clear he knows his Russian and Soviet history well and he takes a lot of its political culture and incorporates it into his own creation. There are many recognisable historical elements, but with interesting twists to them. For example, while the story seems to be set in the equivalent of the USSR, Vlast has existed as a totalitarian state for over four centuries. The biggest twists, of course, are the supernatural ones. The world of the Vlast is sentient, or rather the Forest is sentient and can use its surroundings, the elements, and humans who enter its domain as extensions of its own will. The Forest is one of four opposing factions in the book; there are the Lezarye, the original inhabitants of Vlast, the Vlast themselves, the Forest, and Archangel, the one specimen of the alien entities known as Angels that survived its fall to earth. They can be divided into two sides: the Forest is aligned with the Lezarye, who want to live in harmony with it and its inhabitants, and save the world from the Angels; the Vlast are influenced by the alien presence of the Angels and are being used by Archangel to destroy humanity and the Forest's best hope to save the world from the aliens. While there are man-made creatures of angel flesh, such as the mudjhik, the Forest not only creates its own creatures, but there are mythical beings as well, such as rusalka, giants, and dvornik, which I took to be Higgins version of domovoi. None of these are surprising to the people living in Vlast, they are part of their everyday life. And while they are accepted as part of the world, they are also to be tamed, to be 'put to use', in what seems to be the traditional battle between Man and Nature. In some cases, dvorniks and giants, this succeeds, in other cases, like the rusalka's, nature manages to frighten man into flight.

The story took a while to really grab me. While the book's initial chapter was quite engaging, after it took a bit before the story really connected again, mostly because I connected to Lom more easily once he started investigating Kantor. It's when this investigation gains a bit of traction, that the political scheming comes to the fore, an aspect of the narrative I really enjoyed. The mystery of who is behind Kantor and why was interesting and rather unexpected and hopefully we'll see a bit more of its genesis in the next book. Intricate scheming only succeeds if the characters can pull it off and Higgins quite skilfully managed his characters and their stories. In a cast of interesting characters there were four that really stood out to me: Lom, Vishnik, Kantor, and Maroussia. Lom is not just your standard policeman, he's more than that and has a mysterious past. He is the heart of this story, both being its main character and due to the awesome psychological development he goes through. Lom awakens during this novel, to his heritage, his powers, and to the fact that he is part of a corrupt government and that people fear him just by dint of his profession. I loved the almost meditative passages where Lom roams the city trying to work out his thoughts and emotions. One of the people that help him figure things out is Raku Vishnik. Vishnik grew up in the same orphanage, became a history professor and is part of the oft-harassed community of intellectuals and artists. He gives Lom an introduction into this underground community, where he hopes to find leads to one of the villains of the book, the fascinating and frightening Joseph Kantor. The man is a complete psychopath and a terrorist, but due to the fact that we get to follow his thought pattern and some of his history, he doesn't exactly become sympathetic, but we do gain insight into his motivations. The final of my four favourites is Maroussia, Kantor's alleged daughter, who turns out to be something else entirely and is both important to the plot in her own right and as a love interest for Lom. There are a host of interesting secondary characters, some of whom are sure to make a repeat appearance in the next book, others... not so much. One thing is for sure Higgins isn't afraid to kill off characters.

Wolfhound Century is a fascinating read, if not always an easy one. Higgins takes his story to some dark and strange places. Especially the passages which convey the intrusion of another possible reality on Lom's world can get a little strange and disorienting to read, which is probably the sense the author wants to convey, but it also holds up the momentum of the story. However, there is also a lot of intricate prose that draws you right into the scenes it describes. Higgins also creates some awesome machinery to keep his Vlast running smoothly, one of which, the Gaukh Engine, made my information-managing librarian heart beat faster. I loved the description and concept behind the engine, though it is no surprise the engine isn't located in a library, but at the Central Registry in the Lodka, the Vlast centre of political power and bureaucracy. The ending to the book is somewhat abrupt, but as it's the first in a trilogy it does present a natural break in the story, even if that break is a rather big cliff hanger. Peter Higgins has created an awesome debut with his Wolfhound Century and I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series to learn more about the nature of the Angels and about Lom's and Maroussia's respective heritages.

This book was provided for review by the publisher as part of the Gollancz Geeks program.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cool, 3 April 2014
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Hardcover)
How to describe this one? How to do it justice? In Soviet Russia reviews writes you! Anyway...

Yes, this book takes place in a world that is ours, or maybe it is not our world. We have a "Russia" turned "Soviet", ruled by a ruthless dictator, revolutionaries running around in the streets bombing stuff, a war with a place called The Archipelago, and that is all we learn of that place. But that is only the beginning. There is a vast vast forest, there are creatures from Slavic mythology, there are Gods that left, and there was a war in the sky that broke the moon and made angels fall to earth and die. Their flesh used by scientist for their own gain, and one of those angels are still alive, huge, dark and hungry. Hey there was even "Finnish" giant. Now you might to understand that this was different.

In this fascinating world an investigator named Lom is brought to the capital to find a terrorist. Instead he finds a conspiracy bigger than anything he could have imagined. A city killing itself, earth moving beneath his feet and a world that needs to be saved.

Conclusion:
So, it's a mystery, fantasy, alternate earth, detective story. Really different and honestly just cool.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative and distinctive., 16 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Kindle Edition)
Set in an alternative soviet dimension , Wolfhound Century has some truly original ideas and an intriguing plot.It does occasional disappear up it is own 'Mudjhink' and there is some unnecessary swearing but this quickly forgiven. I look forward to the next instalment and would recommended this book to anyone who wants to swap their teenage fantasy books for a grown up one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars unexpected and wonderful, 6 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Kindle Edition)
I knew nothing about this book, but was intrigued by the premise. It's a wonderful rich and believable world, and a fine story. I wod recommend it to any one looking for a smart, distinctive scifi / fantasy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting blend..., 12 Jan 2014
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Kindle Edition)
Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy via netgalley.

Investigator Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist -- and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police.
A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown insurgents with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists.

So I always like to try a book that refuses to sit firmly in any one genre and WolfHound Century was just that very thing and very cleverly imagined.

The thing I loved most about this one was the descriptive prose that put you right in the moment - and the world the author has created here. It is almost fairytale like in its concept, but definitely Grimm and not Disney - and written so well you can see it as if it were real.

This is part political thriller, part dark fantasy and part mystery and the various strands of the story are woven together to great effect - if I had one small complaint it would be that sometimes the characters did seem very secondary to the environment they were living in - however as this is part of a series it is important that the mythology behind the story is ingrained and this was achieved well.

It is a bit of a slow burner - I rambled my way through the first few chapters, but once it kicked in, it was a definite page turner and I very much enjoyed it.

I look forward to the next instalment. Overall a terrific, well written tale with an interesting concept and fantastic imagery.

Happy Reading Folks!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Superb First Half Of A Bigger Story, 24 July 2013
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Hardcover)
Wolfhound Century is the debut novel by author Peter Higgins. A weird tale of espionage in an alternate, fantastical Russia - it's a bit like China Mieville had a party with John Le Carre. On acid.

The book follows Inspector Vissarion Lom, a small-town police detective who hasn't done himself any favours when it comes to self-promotion with his superiors. But out of the blue for Lom, he's summoned to the vast capital city of Mirgorod, a sort of Moscow/St. Petersburg/ New Crobuzon hybrid, to investigate the reappearance of a suspected terrorist. It is Lom's ability to ask the right questions and stay in the dark that is required by the head of police in Mirgorod. So Wolfhound Century goes on to become a story about spies, artists, revolutionaries, gunfights and death-defying chases on the cool, wet streets of Mirgorod. So far, so James Bond.

But James Bond doesn't have angels, sentient rain and giants. I don't remember seeing many weird, walking trees and vast stone golems in Skyfall.

Higgins' has managed to craft something truly different. It's a neo-noir fantasy thriller that is filled to the brim with ideas and imagery that jumps off the page. His prose is honed to near perfection. His descriptions and style are so atmospheric that several scenes in particular are still clearly with me long after finishing the book. Seriously, the way Higgins describes rain is incredible:

"Two kinds of rain fell on Podchornok. There was steppe rain from the west, sharp and cold, blown a thousand versts across the continental plain in ragged shreds. And the other kind was forest rain. Forest rain came from the east in slow, weighty banks of nimbostratus that settled over the town for days at a time and shed their cargo in warm fat sheets. It fell and fell with dumb insistence, overbrimming the gutters and outflows and swelling the waters of the Yannis until it flowed fat and yellow and heavy with mud. In spring the forest rain was thick with yellow pollen that stuck in your hair and on your face and lips and had a strange taste. In autumn it smelled of resin and earth. This, today, this was forest rain."

The plot never lets up, as you might expect from something so easily compared favorably to John Le Carre - it's at times exciting, exhausting and terrifying to read. My only problem with the book was that its ending was so abrupt. Don't get me wrong - I don't mean to say there is a cliffhanger - but rather that it just ends, practically mid-scene. It's a bizarre choice and in many ways left me with the feeling that this is only half of one greater novel. I'm under the assumption that there will be a sequel - otherwise I'd really have to reassess my feelings on Wolfhound Century.

So apart from that ending, Wolfhound Century is an extraordinarily accomplished debut from a real master of atmosphere. Peter Higgins has managed to create a completely unique fantasy world with a plot that wouldn't be out of place in a modern day thriller. But what sets it apart (except for the angels, golems and sentient rain) is the sense that really, anything could happen. This is what good genre fiction can do - it can take the familiar and imbue it with the fantastic, creating something fresh, original and a real standout novel. Excellent stuff - now where's Part Two?
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2.0 out of 5 stars So So fantasy novel., 29 May 2013
This review is from: Wolfhound Century (Hardcover)
OK, the premise: The novel is set in a Fantasy version of Stalinist Russia, a provincial policeman is sent to the capital to search for an arch terrorist. But it's more than that, there is a huge alien angel stuck in the ground somewhere using its mind to control certain events. There is a sentient forest that also seems to have some kind of control as well.

This all seems fair enough for a fantasy/scifi novel and did attract my attention. On the positive, I did finish the book, but I'm glad I borrowed it from the library rather than buy it. For me, the author was quite prosaic and I found myself skipping sentences just to move the plot along. Going by the ending I assume this is the first part of the obligatory fantasy trilogy.

In my opinion Higgins would have been better advised to write a once off novel, sticking to the thriller elements and less on the padding. Will I read the other follow-up novels? Probably not.
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Wolfhound Century
Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins (Hardcover - 21 Mar 2013)
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