Monday, May 24, 2010

Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan


The Viking King Authun leads his men on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village. Men and women are killed indiscriminately but Authun demands that no child be touched. He is acting on prophecy. A prophecy that tells him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Gods. If Authun, in turn, takes the child and raises him as an heir, the child will lead his people to glory.

But Authun discovers not one child, but twin baby boys. Ensuring that his faithful warriors, witness to what has happened, die during the raid Authun takes the children and their mother home, back to the witches who live on the troll wall. And he places his destiny in their hands.

And so begins a stunning multi-volume fantasy epic that will take a werewolf from his beginnings as the heir to a brutal viking king, down through the ages. It is a journey that will see him hunt for his lost love through centuries and lives, and see the endless battle between the wolf, Odin and Loki - the eternal trickster - spill over into countless bloody conflicts from our history, and over into our lives.

This is the myth of the werewolf as it has never been told before and marks the beginning of an extraordinary new fantasy series from Gollancz.

A superbly written fantasy epic that spans hundreds of years of our history to bring Norse legends and the myth of the werewolf to blood-curdling life.

I already gave a bit of spiel about me liking Wolfsangel by MD Lachlan. It's a winner - for me at least - on various levels.

Allow me to digress here for a bit. Last year Mark and I attended Dragonmeet only for one thing: to sit in on a talk by a handful of authors, amongst them David Devereux, Stephen Deas, Johnny Nexus and MD Lachlan (aka Mark Barrowcliffe). The talk had to do with gaming and writing and it was probably one of the funniest and interesting talks I've been to. What came out is that most of the authors on the panel were all gamers or at least ex-gamers but that a lot of them had interest in the occult. MDL mentioned this a few times and this made me itch to read Wolfsangel more. I suspected dark dealings, spells, evil, witches...interesting things.

And I wasn't disappointed. MDL takes a story and imbues it with a wild dark magic that lifts an almost standard quest adventure (historical) fantasy into something vivid, gritty and wonderfully epic.

The king's action at the beginning of the novel is so imaginatively over the top, I initially thought it was a dream sequence. Little did I know this was in fact the tone of the entire novel. King Athun leads a raid on a small village with the express desire to steal away a baby boy, to take him back to his own kingdom and raise him as his own. Only thing is, when he finds the boy, he discovers not one but two boys. Twins. He takes the decision to raise one and send one to be raised by the witches who sent him on this quest in the first instance. Athun's word is law - his thanes, friends and fellow warriors - obey his instructions and stay to fight the people from the village and surrounds, ensuring their king's escape. This opening salvo is already seeped deeply with the magic of the otherworld. It shows us the iron-hold of the witches on a king and a king's hold on his people.

The boy who is taken by the king, Vali, grows up a little bit spoilt and is sent off to be fostered. His life is not too bad, a bit of practice with a sword, but mostly Vali is an easygoing kid who is more than just a bit in love with the lovely Adisla.

The twin brother given to the witches were sent off to the Beserkers to be raised. And boy, did they turn this child into a feral beast! The author uses reserves of imagination here yet he doesn't bombard us with the grimness of the boy's education. It is what it is. Fact. Move on.

On one level we have an almost basic quest happening here: Vali has to prove his dedication to his friend and true love Adisla by following the orders of his step-father to go off and hunt down one of the wolves that's been preying on travellers. This leads Vali to capture his twin brother Feileg. Their society is so steeped in lore that when Vali sees his brother's face for the first time he thinks he's being tricked by a witch, a demon, and doesn't realise that it is in fact his brother. He carries him back to the settlement where Adisla takes pity on the feral boy-man. Her kindness to him, generates a loyalty and love within Feileg, something he's never felt before. When pirates / raiders attack and Adisla is taken, Vali and Feileg set off to bring her back.

MDL has taken this recognisable tale and spun it through various layers, using some pretty impressive story telling skills and what I can only assume was insanely fun research to create a dark mysterious world that feels like it's walking side by side with one we know. There are monsters, battles, love, betrayal, witches...the works.

What sticks Wolfsangel together is the sense of place and of time. The characters are well developed yet not all of them are likeable. Which in itself is a feat. They stick in your mind, they make you wonder about the bigger story here, the story of Odin, Fenris and Loki. How the humans in this story try and cope with the choices they make, but are they really making it or has it all happened long before?

I can maybe gab on a lot more about Wolfsangel (I'm sorry MDL, the next time we meet, your ear will be bent!) but I think what it boils down to is this: epic storytelling never grows old, especially if you have someone like MD Lachlan to tell it to you. But please, don't take my word for it. Go read it for yourself.

Find MD Lachlan's site here. Wolfsangel was released last week through Gollancz.


Adele said...

woot, awesome review love. :)

Lauren said...

Brilliant review. I don't know much about Norse legends so I really like the idea of a novel that references that whole mythology. Sounds like the world-building is deep, which is something else I love. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

I couldn't read the entire review, because I'm so afraid of spoilers. Wolfsangel is sitting in my shelf =)

But I did pick up that you enjoyed it and that makes me want to pick it up even more(but I guess my exam will have to be priority right now).