Published by BantamSpectra
Werewolves and Teutonic Knights make for an interesting combination in Wolf’s Cross, S.A. Swann’s commendable follow-up to Wolfbreed. In the 14th Century, a band of Holy Men are hunting a monster, a demon who walks like man and beast when their trail leads them to a small Polish village. The P.O.V. character on the Church’s side is a young man named Joseph, who is just an initiate and not a full member of the order. In the village, we are introduced to Maria, a young girl living with her sick father, stepbrother and stepmother as she is tasked with helping the wounded Knights upon their arrival. Sparks fly between Joseph and Maria immediately, but their stations in life prevent them from acting on their impulses.
One other thing about Maria is evident from the very beginning – the silver pendant hanging on the chain draped around her neck. It is something she’s worn her entire life given to her at an early age by her father. It shouldn’t come as a shock that Maria’s silver pendant is what prevents her from knowing her true nature as a Wolfbreed. But like any writer, Swann doesn’t really hide this fact. Rather, it’s the path on which he places Maria to discovering her true nature that, in part, makes the novel such an enjoyable one.
In Joseph, Swann has given Maria one of her two primary counterparts. The young acolyte possesses a questioning nature both of himself and the order he serves. This introspective nature rises to the top of his being when he meets Maria and becomes, to say the least, smitten with her. Speaking to Maria’s dual nature is Darian, another wolfbreed and the creature after whom the Order is hunting. Swann depicts the mental and emotional conflict Maria undergoes as she longs to be with Joseph despite the barriers present between them. As Maria discovers her true nature, she comes to think of herself as a monster and feels the only person she can be with is Darian.
I also have to give credit to Swann for Maria’s family. It would have been very easy for Maria’s stepmother to reject who and what Maria is, but Swann opts for a different route and the results help to make the emotional impact of the story even stronger. The story within a story of Maria’s youth to where she is when we meet her in the novel, told through her stepmother’s voice, was poignant, powerful and very effective in how it was told.
One of the first things I noticed, in comparing Wolf’s Cross to Wolfbreed was the contrast between the two novels. Whereas the wolfbreed in the first novel were employed as tools of the Church, in Wolf’s Cross the wolfbreed are now hunted monsters. It proves an interesting dichotomy, and perhaps as importantly, allows the two novels to stand independently should readers come to Wolf’s Cross without having read the previous novel. Conversely, the ‘Easter Eggs’ in Wolf’s Cross of events from the previous novel serve as a nice nod to those readers familiar with Lily’s story depicted in Wolfbreed.
Wolfbreed surprised me last year in some ways, having read only one Mr. Swann’s Science Fiction novels (Prophets) I wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming into Wolf’s Cross, the bar was set relatively high and I’m pleased to say Mr. Swann met the bar. The best compliment I can give Wolf’s Cross is that I hope Mr. Swann continues to tell stories set in this world. Perhaps a meeting between the wolfbreed of Lily’s family and Maria’s family, or maybe a story set between the two novels. Either way, I’ll happily read.
© 2010 Rob H. Bedford
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