I just finished The Wolf Age by James Enge.
My Rating: ★★★★
I love werewolf books. I'm not sure what it is about them, but of all the shifters I find wolves the neatest. This book is unique because, unlike almost all current lycanthrope books, it's not an urban fantasy. It's a true sword-and-(kinda)-sorcery fantasy. Almost the entire book takes place in a werewolf city. What a concept. I'd never read anything like it. I loved it!
It also happens to be the third in a series and I haven't read the first two (whoops – serves me right for buying a book simply because the cover's cool). Thankfully, it stands alone. Besides the main character, Morlock, only one other person shows up from the previous books, and they're history is well explained. Although it takes awhile to grasp Morlock's abilities and personalities, it does not distract from the story.
Werewolves. Lots and lots of werewolves. In fact, except of Morlock and a few nameless others, all the characters were werewolves. And Enge made them such a unique blend of werewolves! Some were “standard” ones, others were forever stuck in one of the shapes, or in some strange blend of the two (i.e. wolfish face but human legs). And they thought like werewolves! Thank you, Enge! One of my biggest pet peeves is when a non-humans act just like we do. These had their own culture, their own language, history, etc. It was great.
Morlock was a truly unique hero. I really can't begin to describe all the quirks to him. He uses a magic sword, but not the typical kind. And, although he does use magic, it's almost like he's an inventor or a scientist. He makes things, several times using trial and error. In fact, the werewolves call him a maker (I don't know if that's a common term for his type of magic, or if it's just used by the wolves). He's definitely not the Gandalf-type of mage, yelling incantations at his foes. Nor was he perfect and all powerful. He made mistakes. He managed to be superhuman, and all too human at the same time. I couldn't wait to see what he'd do next.
The writing took a bit to understand. The first chapter was told from the perspective of the Strange Gods. Since they're gods, they don't “speak,” they “signify.” They indicate emotions. Enge actually writes it like that. “Death indicated indifference and readiness to begin...” I had to force my way through the first chapter with no idea of what was happening, as War, Death, Wisdom, and others signified to each other what they thought might happen and what should happen. It got better once I got the hang of it. But I'll be honest, at first I was baffled.
The names. Oh my, the names. I get that they're werewolves, and their names are similar to Native American names, where they tell you something about the person. But, holy moly, the names here were a mouthful. Some examples: Khretvarrgliu, Iuiolliniu, Yaarirruuiu, Luyukioronu, etc, etc, etc. It goes on and on. Several times I got confused who was who. And I didn't even try to pronounce any of them.
The ending. Most of the book was supurb, then the ending just … fizzled out. For most of the novel, we follow one main plot line. That resolved approxiamately 2/3rds of the way through. Then another minor plot, which had barely been touched upon up until that point and that Morlock had no knowledge of, suddenly became the main struggle. And a mysterious figure is revealed … and he's very disappointing. Everything seemed very scattered. It just got weird.
Even with the weirdness of the ending, I really enjoyed this book. I think anyone who enjoys unique cultures will love this and it's a must-read for any werewolf lover.