When I reviewed Wolfsangel a few months ago, I gave it a favorable review. And while I enjoyed that book, I enjoyed the sequel more. Fenrir takes place some time after Wolfsangel. I don’t know history well enough to give specific dates, but I’d say a couple of hundred years have passed.
The story opens with vikings laying siege to Paris and accelerates from there.
The vikings are trying to capture Aelis, the sister of Count Eudes. If he turns her over, they’ll leave the city in peace. The vikings are trying to capture her for their commander Sigfrid. He thinks he’s Odin incarnate and needs Aelis in order to fulfill a prophecy. Aiding him are a sorcerer, Hrafn, and a witch, his sister Munin.
Aelis is not without her supporters. First there’s the blind and crippled monk, Jehan the Confessor, who is regarded by many to be a living saint. There’s a wolfman (which is not the same thing as a werewolf in this book) and his companion, Leshii, an aging merchant. They want to take Aelis back to the city of Aldeigjuborg to their lord, Helgi.
If you are expecting some of these people to be Adisla, Vali, and Feilig from Wolfsangel reincarnated, you’d be right. If you think you know which character is which, you’ll probably be wrong. Lachlan kept me off balance and surprised as he slowly revealed who was who. It won’t be who you think. This is not a book you can easily predict. Case in point, how the prophecy that Helgi would be killed by his horse was fulfilled. Clever and entirely consistent with what had been established. Also unexpected.
The pacing in Fenrir is relentless yet never rushed. The book moves quickly. My biggest frustration with it was dayjobbery and life kept interfering with my reading time. I had hoped to have finished the book around the first of the month. Unlike Wolfsangel, which took place over a period of years, Fenrir opens in the spring and closes the following March.
The characters have more depth than most fantasy characters, and Lachlan does a marvelous job juggling a number of major and minor characters, some of whom have multiple names, and making them individuals with their own characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. These aren’t just static characters, either. They grow and change, to the point that one or two switch allegiance. And Loki puts in a few appearances. He doesn’t switch allegiance, though.
The action and combat are well done, and there’s plenty of battles from one-on-one to small groups clashing. While there are no large armies meeting on the field, there’s still plenty of opportunities for heroism, as well as betrayal and savagery.
As good as Wolfsangel was, and it was good, Fenrir is better. If this series continues to improve, it will be a high water mark in contemporary fantasy. It pretty much is already.
Series like this one, the Danilov Quintet by Jasper Kent, the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, and the Shadow books by Jon Sprunk, just to name a few fantasy series (and that’s not even getting into the science fiction), have made Pyr books my favorite publisher. With quality like this, it’s no wonder Pyr seems to have a permanent place on the shortlists of all the major awards.