Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by M. D. Lachlan


Magic in Wolfsangel isn't a distant entity reserved for a chosen few who happen to be born in the right circumstances. It's something you can imagine doing yourself, if only you were sufficiently insane. Likewise the setting isn't some indefinite fantasy land full of wise elves and benign wizards, but Europe at the time of the rise of Christianity, when nasty, brutish and short was the kind of life you got if you were lucky.

What is astonishing is the way the author blends the harsh realities of Viking life with the savage strangeness of the Norse gods. It's not done tentatively, as most authors would do, giving readers time to get used to the idea that magic might be possible in this world, before exposing us to its full mystical glory. Oh, no. Lachlan plunges us straight into a world of blood, iron, mad gods and longships with no mediation at all, and no time to prepare for it. It works unexpectedly well.

The story begins with Authun, a ruthless king who sets out to steal a child in order to fulfil a prophecy told to him by the mountain witches, and thus to protect his people for the future. But the price is high, the witches are untrustworthy and not necessarily sane, and Authun returns with one more child than he set out to take.

The lives of the twin boys take very different paths. Prince Vali is destined to be Authun's heir. Vali is in love with Adisla, a commoner, although his feelings for her tend to distract him from his studies of war and state. He's not a typical hero. He feels out of place on his first war raid, amongst a boat full of battle-thirsty berserkers.

Meanwhile Vali's brother Feileg is raised in the company of wolves, growing up to become a feral savage. He doesn't talk, but he can rip people apart with just his teeth. It's a bad enough existence, but when witches and sorcerers get involved with the brothers' lives things get much worse for them.

Vali is living with his adoptive people, the Rygir, when they are attacked and things go badly. He is cast out and accused of murder, and his beloved Adisla is earmarked for sacrifice.

Vali sets off to try to avert his fate and save Adisla, but he's fighting against fate and the gods, caught in the crossfire in a battle between witches and sorcerers. How can he win when everyone else is trying to manipulate him? The odds are already against him when the wolfsangel, the werewolf rune associated with Loki's son Fenrir, comes into play.

Wolfsangel brings the Norse legends to life brilliantly with its great atmosphere, particularly when it comes to the battle scenes. The author has taken magic back to its dark, primal roots and in the process has recaptured the weird qualities that make it genuinely terrifying. The ending comes with satisfying twists that may leave you marvelling at the story's cleverness, whilst berserk war cries echo in the back of your mind. Brutally good.

1st November 2010

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books

  Not For The Squeamish  

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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