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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    August 2010 BotM: Wolfbreed by S.A. Swann

    This month's book is a fairly recent publication, published in August 2009.



    From Rob's review in November 2009:

    Werewolves have been part of the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and a part of human folklore for hundreds of years. In Wolfbreed by S.A. Swann, these creatures of legend are a tool of the church as Christianity attempts to sweep through and ‘convert’ Europe. At the heart of the novel are two young protagonists, Ulf and Lily, one of whom is a wolfbreed and the other the last survivor of a ravaged village. The wolfbreed (Lily) is being hunted since her escape from the dungeons of the church, coming to realize she was being used for many years.

    The novel begins with a prologue which relays a Teutonic Knight’s discovery of young pack of werewolves. These wolf cubs are treated as both an abomination and a blessing – they represent the pagan fears the church is trying to eradicate. However, as a blessing, the church plays on this fear and uses these ‘demons’ to help in their crusade to bring the pagan peoples under their sway as converts.

    One of the great things about the book, and an element that helped to keep me turning the pages, was Swann’s structure for the novel. In interweaving sections, Swann reveals the past of Lily and her wolfbreed pack-mates as they are trained by the church to terrorize villages. The bulk of the novel deals with the aftermath of Lily’s escape as she comes to the attention of Udolf, who is in the woods helping to make his adopted family make ends meet. You see, Udolf’s family was slaughtered about a decade prior to the events of the novel in one of the Church’s destructive conversions. In addition, Udolf lost an arm the night his family was slaughtered so his self-worth is not exactly high.

    Swann fills the novel with multiple conflicts, each of them paralleling each other. In Lily, we have a creature that is conflicted herself – between her human side and her wolf side. During her years as a captive of the church, she was tortured and abused, with hints of rape thrown into the mix. To help herself cope, she split her personality and hid part of herself away to avoid really experiencing those horrid deeds. When she comes to meet Udolf, she is a shell of a person having regressed in her ability to communicate. However, she displays great physical strength and a remarkable ability to heal, which helps Udolf’s family a great deal. All told, Swann has given readers an empathetic, remarkably drawn character in Lily.

    In Udolf, Swann drew an equal to Lily’s complexity. He’s mentally tortured and physically damaged and immediately finds himself drawn to Lily. As the truth of Lily’s nature began to reveal itself, a crossroads of all the characters came to bear and it was handled very well. It was difficult to pull away from the novel for the majority of its length and the pages turned very quickly. Swann effectively portrays this, but the strength of Udolf’s character is that he isn’t entirely downtrodden, nor does he fully hate himself.

    Often in such stories, the Church is depicted as a controlling all-powerful organization with little regard or connection to the ideals it supposedly espouses. It can be a little cliché, but here, Swan managed to make it work refreshingly well. More importantly, a lot of their actions and the story itself comes across as plausible….if werewolves existed. One element I had hoped to see when I first started reading the book was an origin of how these werewolves came to be. As Swan’s narrative progressed; however, the importance of that ‘backstory’ receded into the shadows and the story turned out better by not having such revelatory scenes.

    Swann, as it turns out, has launched a series with this book for the second book Wolf’s Cross is set to appear in about a year. This is a good thing because in Wolfbreed, he’s given readers engaging characters, a plausible conceit, and a greatly-paced story.

    Recommended.

    It's sequel, Wolf's Cross, has just been published (and I know Rob Bedford's reviewed it and liked it.)

    So: here's your chance to catch up - discuss!

    Mark
    Mark

  2. #2
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    For those interested my reaction and a bit of discussion went on in this thread:
    http://sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25483

    I'll try to discuss the sequel there too later on this month.

    Hopefully some of you will give this book a shot, though looking at the nominations thread it doesn't seem like there's anyone is showing any interest.

  3. #3
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I'll definitely be reading it. It looks like a quick read, so should be done within the week. I need to finish up Kraken first, which should be another day or two, if all goes well with my free time.

  4. #4
    I have read it previously. I enjoyed the book for the most part, but I had trouble with the ending.

    Spoiler:
    Specifically, I felt it would be hard for Ulf to forgive Lily for killing his family and ripping his arm off, especially since while I could see Ulf loving Lily, I couldn't see them building up love in the face of the lack of time and the lack of intelligent conversation from Lily, in order to withstand such a shock. While Lily isn't dumb per se, she doesn't seem to say much more than "Ulfie" a lot. While I can see Ulf forgiving Lily, I couldn't see him feel loving towards her again.

  5. #5
    picked it up at lunch.

  6. #6
    Registered User beniowa's Avatar
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    I read Wolfbreed when it came out last year as I'm a big fan of werewolves. It was good. Not great, but decent. I'll admit I was slightly disappointed as I was hoping to like it more than I did, and then it failed to grab me. That's just me though. And I would still recommend it to others.

    I already have Wolf's Cross and I plan to read it soon.

  7. #7
    The Magnificent Roy Ryders's Avatar
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    haven't read it, when do i have until?

  8. #8
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roy Ryders View Post
    haven't read it, when do i have until?
    Probably until you die.

  9. #9
    The Magnificent Roy Ryders's Avatar
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    The book club's that long?

  10. #10
    Lord of the Wild Hunt Mithfânion's Avatar
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    It says Book of the Month. What does that indicate to you?

  11. #11
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beniowa View Post
    I read Wolfbreed when it came out last year as I'm a big fan of werewolves. It was good. Not great, but decent. I'll admit I was slightly disappointed as I was hoping to like it more than I did, and then it failed to grab me. That's just me though. And I would still recommend it to others.

    I already have Wolf's Cross and I plan to read it soon.
    What failed for you? I thought that the inclusion of a couple of point of views detracted a bit from the book, particularly with the pace. Also, I expected more from Udolf in the book and in the end he didn't end up being much in my opinion.

    With all that said, I loved how the book ended, it had quite a bit of action, and although the romance was a bit weak, I liked the relationship and interaction between the characters which culminated for me with the ending.

  12. #12
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    If you end up liking this book and want to check out more of S. Andrew Swan's work, I would recommend his sci-fi: The Moreau Trilogy or the Hostile Takeover Trilogy. They're both available in omnibuses for the price of a single paperback, so it's a solid deal for two pretty great pulp sagas; one is about genetically modified animals and people getting used to society after their programs dry up, and the other is about the head of an arms corporation in a super capitalistic future getting betrayed and deciding to join a revolution against his company (note: both trilogies take place in the same universe, but hundreds of years apart, so that's pretty neat as well).

    And that's the best thing about Swan, really: he knows how to write a very fast paced tale with lots of twists but give it just enough character and world building that it's not completely meaningless fluff.

    Glad to see we're checking out some of the lesser read authors, Hobb, and hopefully this Wolf series of books gets him more readers.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    So: here's your chance to catch up - discuss!

    Mark
    Finished Wolfbreed today. The book has an interesting premise, but in all honesty i was glad when i finished it. And not because i could then start on the sequel...

    It's not all bad, mr. Swann is a capable writer and some of his action scenes and a few of the more emotional ones are quite enjoyable. As said, the premise is interesting and the main characters are well chosen. But it quickly goes downhill after that. The storyline feels invented at every turn - and not invented in a good way; it felt events were linked just because it would make for a neater 'everything is connected', self-contained story - which is one of the reasons Wolfbreed could never draw me in: no 'suspension of disbelief' ever occurred.

    But the largest flaw, and by far the most irritating one, is the compulsive need for explanation in the book. EVERYTHING is either explained in full, or by a busload of very obvious hints. Be they events, feelings, or a state of mind, one is left in no doubt whatsover what is going on. Or what will happen. I found myself skimming entire paragraphs and even pages because it was so darned obvious what would happen next. And even when he does throw in some stuff with 'emotional impact' (Lilly throwing herself of the wall to save Hilde) - taadaa, in the next chapter it turns out, thank god, Lilly has survived after all. Bells and white doves all around. Soap operas stretch out tension longer than that. Sorry, just venting now

    In short, not my cup of tea. How did you guys fare?

    Cheers,

    Sfinx.

  14. #14
    I didn't like it. I mostly agree with Sfinx's reasons. There was zero suspense, and everything -- I mean EVERYTHING -- is incredibly predictable. One of the joys of the fantasy genre are the puzzles the writers set. What are the sides? Who will betray whom? Who killed Asmodean? This book just doesn't have any. And the whole punchline mystery that should have been a revelation was obvious from, like, page 1.

    It's a good world. Compelling and brutal. There could have been a good story set in it, but the characters are just too weak, too generic. And the moral of the story very transparent. Treat someone cruelly and unjustly, and they will turn on you.


    SPOILERS



    Now I'd be happy if things were a bit more complicated. For instance, if, say, Lilly had reconciled with her master, and both of them were left alive at the end. Or if she were to have escaped for more than just this one very simple motive.

  15. #15
    Registered User beniowa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bastard View Post
    What failed for you? I thought that the inclusion of a couple of point of views detracted a bit from the book, particularly with the pace. Also, I expected more from Udolf in the book and in the end he didn't end up being much in my opinion.

    With all that said, I loved how the book ended, it had quite a bit of action, and although the romance was a bit weak, I liked the relationship and interaction between the characters which culminated for me with the ending.
    Hard to say. There wasn't really any one thing I could point to. I suppose the issue was more that the level of writing was just competent enough to be enjoyable, but not much more. That's just me though.

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