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.