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on 23 September 2013
As a title for this review I thought `There and (almost) back again' might fit, as it appeared to sum up the plot pretty well and cast a knowing reference to all those Germanic poems and mentions of middle-earth by Ballista and his friends.
Then I toyed with `The Horror! The Horror!' where Hippothous quotes Conrad's Kurtz with reference to one of the book's better jokes and provides a nice example of a heart of darkness.
The novel's best joke, however, in my opinion, opens chapter 10 and reads as follows:
`Hippothous felt like a character in a novel. Not one of those centred on the Hellenic world, but an adventure story that roamed to the end of the earth; something like `The wonders beyond Thule'.
As literary allusion goes, this is beyond price. It helped keep me sane as that interminable journey across the steppe went on and on. I found myself thinking about how many levels of reference there are contained in these two sentences. I thought about how pleased the author must be with the neatness of what he had written and whether he wondered how many readers would actually appreciate the references.
There it is: Wolves of the North is a novel for everyman and has something for everyone. It is not just a rambling journey through the steppes concluding with a series of battles and a serial killer thrown in. It also blazes with searing scholarship. It even finishes not with a bang but a whimper.