- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz (20 May 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0575089571
- ISBN-13: 978-0575089570
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.6 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 62 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,089,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Wolfsangel Hardcover – 20 May 2010
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A superbly written fantasy epic that spans hundreds of years of our history to bring Norse legends and the myth of the werewolf to blood-curdling life.
About the Author
M.D. Lachlan is the pseudonym of a successful mainstream fiction and non-fiction writer. A one-time stand-up comedian he also writes for the Guardian. He was born in 1964 in Coventry, where he grew up and now lives with his wife and children in Brighton.
Top customer reviews
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It is, however his fantasy debut, & a very impressive one it is. Well-researched to say the least, it still avoids suffocating the reader in dry facts about Vikings & Norse mythology.
Lachlan's writing style is actually really easy to read, in fact I can remember few other novels that had me sucked in after just a page or two. He also has an elegantly witty turn of phrase, which had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.
A couple of other reviewers have claimed they found it boring & hard to finish. I find that surprising. It's such an engrossing read that I finished the whole book in two sittings.
This is not one of those twee fantasy novels, with wizards, unicorns & dragons though. Anything but. It bears more resemblance to the gritty sword & sorcery of Robert E. Howard & Fritz Leiber, but within a more historically based milieu.
I have the follow up (Fenrir) loaded on my kindle & ready to go.
The first few chapters of the book concentrate on the Viking King Authun as he seeks a child he hopes will safeguard the future of his people. Authun the pitiless they call him, and his exploits are legendary. Without pity he may be, but not without sense. When he finds the child of prophecy to be a twin, he takes both children and their mother with him to the witch queen whose vision inspired his quest. One of the children is given back to him to be his heir. The other and their mother remain with the witch, who knows that each of them are entwined in the same web of destiny.
Then the tale moves forward, and the story proceeds to the life of the first of the twins, Authun's heir Vali. Vali is now living with farmers in a neighbouring land. A lifestyle which has led him to value pursuits other than those expected of a son of Authun. In particular he values Adisla, a farmer's daughter. His love for this woman becoming the one constant in Vali's life as events in his world soon undergo a rapid transformation. For the reader these events take many surprising twists and turns, building layers of tension and expectation. There is a constant sense of an oppressive destiny bearing down on Vali, but the reader is kept guessing as to exactly what that is until quite far into the story. All the while the historical atmosphere of the Viking Era and northern landscape are captured very well indeed. There are also plenty of entertaining if brutal action scenes.
The story is pacey although it does not advance in an obvious manner. The characterisation is excellent, particularly that of Vali and later his twin Feileg. It is easy to feel empathy for these two, even when their actions are brutal and bloody. There is a sombre atmosphere to this novel. A pervasive bleakness against which the characters must strive, which fits perfectly with the Viking setting.
The writing style has a slight journalistic quality. When reading this, I found I rarely paid attention to the writing, not necessarily a bad thing in my book. The story itself, and the characters are what held my attention. Otherwise, there were perhaps one or two occasions mostly relating to the witch queen's lair, where I found I had to re-read sections in order to build a clear image of what had happened in the narrative.
Where this novel is an absolute triumph beyond even the other factors mentioned so far, is in its depiction of magic. Never before Wolfsangel, have I seen the essence of real world magical and shamanic traditions, so wonderfully captured in a fantasy setting. Sure, there is artistic licence here. There is even with the non magical elements, such as the berserk's use of mushrooms and hallucinogens to induce their trances, which is not historically proven, but a contested theory. It doesn't matter, because these types of rituals do exist, as do the various trials used to induce altered states of consciousness. The way these elements are integrated in to this novel is quite simply brilliant, and amazingly cohesive. The depiction of the use of the Norse Runes is also excellent. Taken together as a system of magic in an historical fantasy style environment, the effect is very powerful indeed.
As yet, I haven't mentioned that this is supposedly a werewolf novel. Indeed it is, but you have never read a werewolf tale like this. In fact I would say you have probably never read a fantasy novel like this. Wolfsangel is an original, captivating, and bold novel. One that is not only an immense pleasure to read, but one that pushes mythic fantasy into exciting new territory.
The magic is sinister, full of cruelty and trial by ordeal. The feel of the period (vikings and norse gods) and the brutal beliefs they lived by is brought to life with a distinct edge.
No spoilers here but the werewolf is superb and Loki every inch the mischievious god.
For an original take on werewolves and fantasy give this a read.
The middle part introduces a interesting take on the werewolf myth however the body count starts to ratchet up and doesn't stop. Normally this doesn't worry me at all but there was no depth in the characters beyond their original introduction and their motives struck me as fairly contrived at times.
The ending was interesting but felt slightly anticlimactic. I'll definitely read the sequels so I must've enjoyed it but there were definite flaws. 3 stars seems fair to me.
The ending did seem to shoot along but I have to say I enjoyed it all very much. I would recommend this to anyone.
Let's hope his next book (hopefully in the same world) is just as good, but think this is a standalone book as does have a final ending.
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