Another young adult Bloomsbury UK title, this one released in July. I actually very much enjoyed Wolf Blood. It’s set in the first century AD when the Romans are trying to conquer the British Celtic tribes (for those interested: they succeed despite widespread rebellion by Boudicca and others only to have their power slowly eroded over the next few centuries as Rome falters and finally falls). The main character is Trista, a very strong female warrior and seer who is plagued by horrifying and violent visions of the future. While escaping a Roman attack, Trista meets Morcant, a Roman soldier whose mother was a tribeswoman. Trista quickly recognizes Morcant’s dual nature – he is part man and part wolf. He is at first unaware of this duality, and subsequently refuses to accept the animal side of his nature. They are of course drawn to each other and end up traveling together as outcasts in this most dangerous land.
So it’s werewolves and historical fiction rolled into one – which, honestly, is a kind of refreshing mix. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a sucker for historical fiction, and I spent enough time teaching in Britain that this era is particularly familiar to me. I’m not sure how it will play out in North America – but I suspect that werewolves and Celts will be welcome wherever they roam.
More than the history, however, I enjoyed the rather fresh take on werewolves. Morcant is not just a sexy human who can take on wolf form (see Twilight); nor is he a man who changes into an uncontrollable beast once a month (Harry Potter and most other werewolf stories). From the start, Trista can see the wolf alongside the man, and the man alonside the wolf, alternating between who is in control. In the course of the novel, Morcant goes even further and becomes a wolf and surrenders his human side. The story is in fact a love triangle between Trista, Morcant, and the female she-wolf who becomes his mate. The treatment of his senses and thoughts as a wolf was particularly singular. He is truly an animal, not a wolf-like monster; though there is sometimes a human impulse guiding him. He and his mate also behave like real wolves – they hunt and enjoy the night, but also avoid humans as a rule (I remember hearing that there have been zero confirmed wolf attacks on humans in Canada. Ever. They are not the big bad wolves of fairy tales). Wolf Blood is certainly the most fascinating treatment of the division between wolf and human that I have read – it felt far more like Call of the Wild than it did Twilight or its many clones.
I admit I did get a bit bogged down in the middle in battles and contant travels through desolate landscapes. There were also far too many incidents of them gaining clothing and armour and then losing it again, then gaining more and having it taken, etc., etc… The end also had a rather disapointingly obvious lesson-of-the-week-sum-up-the-message from a Druid (they’re such know-it-alls). However, despite these flaws, it was honestly worth it for the fantastic writing, the excellent wolf dynamic, and the very strong central female character.