Category Archives: werewolves

More Vikings, More Werewolves, and More Loki

M.D. Lachlan
Pyr, tp, $16.00, 442 p.

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.

Vikings and Werewolves and Loki

M. D. Lachlan
Pyr, 355 p., $16

If you like Vikings, werewolves, or Norse mythology, then this is the book for you.  

Wolfsangel opens with a bloody Viking raid on a small Anglo-Saxon settlement.  Authun, the king leading the raid, gives his men orders to kill everyone except the children.  He’s looking for a prophesied male infant, one supposed to have been stolen from the gods.  If he takes the child, the boy will grow up to lead his people to glory, or so he believes.  What he ends up with are two infants, twin brothers.  Not knowing which one is the one he wants, he takes them both along with their mother.  He leaves his men to die.

It gets darker from there.

Authun takes his prisoners to the witches who first told him the prophecy.  They aren’t nice ladies.  They are pure evil, although to Lachlan’s credit, their evil is not without motivation.  Several layers of motivation, in fact.  The witches keep the woman and one of the boys.  Authun returns home with the other.

Skip ahead a few years.  The child Authun ended up with,Vali, spends his youth as a hostage in the court of Forkbeard, an allied king.  Vali is betrothed to Forkbeard’s daughter, who is still a child.  He’s in love with a farm girl, Adisla.  His brother, Feileg, was sent by the witches to be raised by beserkers until a certain age, at which time he was abandoned.  He was then raised by a lone man who dressed as a wolf.  Mom is still a prisoner of the witches.

Things begin to come together when Vali is sent to prove his manhood and worthiness by capturing a wolf-man who is terrorizing travelers.  Of course the wolf man is Feilig.  If he fails, the Forkbeard will sacrifice Adisla to Odin.

This sets off a chain of events to fulfill a prophecy concerning Odin, Loki, and the twins.  One of  them will become a notorious wolf.  Fenris.

Lachlan could have brought the werewolf into the story much earlier than he does.  Instead he chose to wait, building the tension and the growing horror of what’s happening to one of the boys, now young men.  The transformation isn’t instantaneous but evolves over a period of time.  I found this to be an effective approach.

This is a complex novel of multiple layers filled with betrayals, forbidden love, and fate.  I’m not sure I could summarize it more effectively if I tried to give more detail.  It can’t simply be read as an adventure story because there are too many characters with hidden agendas and your understanding of things will change by the time you finish the book.  That’s no reason of course to not read it.  Just don’t expect light bedtime reading.  You need to pay attention, so make sure you’re alert.

This is an extremely dark and, as the blurb from Joe Abercrombie on the front cover says, savage book.  Don’t read it if you’re squeamish.  Of course, if you read this blog, you probably aren’t squeamish.  It’s the first in a series.  I’m curious to see where it goes.