WolfAngel by M.D. Lachlan
Published by Gollancz May 2010 (ARC copy received)
ISBN: 9780575089570 (Hardback); 9780575089594 (Trade paperback)
422 pages (448 in final copy)
Review by Mark Yon
You know, there are times when publicity can work for a book and sometimes when it works against the enjoyment of a book.
Sadly, for me this was one of those occasions where the publicity did me, as a reader, no favours.
If I had been able to sit down and just read the book, with no preconceptions or advance notice of what was going to happen, I would’ve enjoyed it a whole lot more. Though I did enjoy it.
You see, this is one of those books that has a great plot twist about two thirds into the book – or at least it would be had I not known already, thanks to the Publisher’s Introduction at the front of the book, the blurb on the back of the book and the general comments made by other people on the Internet. To avoid this for you, no plot summary this time, as a result.
Despite this, there’s a lot I liked about the novel. This is a cracking read, a good page turner, where what begins as a historical Viking novel turns into a battle between ancient Gods and has a nice touch of horror along the way. (Again, there’s that dang plot twist.) The book is well written and fast paced, short-chaptered with logical and engaging characterisation and a soon-developed empathy for the lead characters. It’s a tale of Kings and Gods, of young love defying what destiny has foretold, of friendship and jealousy. There’s a few battles along the way which toughen up our hero from being a ‘why can’t we all get along’ kind of guy to an all-action, sword-fighting, throat-tearing kind of hero. With added issues. (Again, there I go again with that dang plot twist.)
On the negative side, some of the plot is a little predictable, if not convenient, and the beginning of the novel takes a little while to get going. Not too difficult to see around, especially in an early novel. (Though this is a debut Fantasy novel, the author under his real name has published before, though more observational non-fiction than outright Fantasy .)
What might be a deal-breaker for some is the magic system involved, which involves death, and particularly the death of children, to implement magic. It did leave me feeling a little uncomfortable, although its context is well explained and logically put, even if a little icky.
It’s quite refreshing to read a book that dips into other pantheons from the usual. There are elements here that you will recognise from Norse mythology, if you know it: for others it will be a pleasant surprise. There’s a wealth of background available for a writer to dip into, and it’s clearly something M.D. expects to use in future books in the series. The ending is not too surprising, though fairly self contained, if you want it to be.
Consequently, despite being a little spoiled for me, as a Fantasy debut this is a fine novel and one for me that punched above its weight. Consequently, I suspect it will do very well. As is often the case with a good read, despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen in the end, I finished the book caring about the characters and wanting to know what happens next. That is a good sign.
It further appears that I’m not alone in this view, though. Some other authors you may have heard of, such as Joe Abercrombie, Stephen Deas, and Graham Joyce seem to like it as well.
Expect to see more of this one. Recommended.
[UPDATE: MD’s explained more about his magic system on his blog after reading my comment above. Link HERE. ]
Mark Yon, February 2010