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Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browne

wolf blood nm browne Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browne

I know that one shouldnt judge books by their covers, but I wasnt especially enamoured of this one when I received it (funnily enough, I did buy Brownes Shadow Web, below, a few years ago based purely on its cover, but havent yet read it). From the title to the staid fantasy art, it screams shallow George RR Martin knock-off, but truly, its something else entirely.

Wolf Blood'may be a werewolf novel, but its one thats a brave, welcome departure from the sexy beasts stuff lining the shelves at the moment. Set in first century AD, during the Roman conquest of Britain, it follows the dual perspectives of Trista, a warrior seeress who has recently escaped from slavery, and Morcant, a Roman (seemingly, at least) soldier who is quickly learning that his affinity with those of lupine kind is rather more than simply having a way with dogs. With Morcant a deserter and Trista and escapee, theyre unlikely to make any friends, and so they flee together. Along the way they learn volumes about their own identitiesboth in terms of their abilities and their personalitiesand are faced at every turn with the question of whom to trust.

Its a strong concept, and Brownes take is appealingly fresh. Morcants wolf has none of the bestial appeal of the typical paranormal romance fare, but is instead far more in tune with the pagan customs native to Britain. Browne also uses Morcants changing state to examine his ambivalence regarding where he belongshe may be a Roman soldier, but he has Celtic blood as well. Morcant at one point impregnates a wolf partner, and is torn between conflicting loyalties: he has newfound responsibilities to this wolf partner that he cannot simply ignore, but similarly Trista needs his help and attention. Likewise, Trista is conflicted, as her ability to glimpse the future is perceived by her to be an affliction at best: given what is to come of her fellow countrymen, she sees nothing but blood and turmoil, but telling those she cares about of their likely fate is no easy task, and may paint her in traitorous light.

Browne draws her characters warmly and convincingly, and their strength, Tristas in particular, and the characters work as believable individuals. I found it a nice touch that although there is a degree of romantic tension, Trista and Morcant remain platonic companions who support each other through their deeds rather than through passion. There is no all-encompassing love, and Trista acknowledges the fickleness of the emotion when she is surprised to hear that a Celtic king she meets has a wifeTrista has for years harboured some sort of girlish dream that she herself might marry him.

The setting, too, intrigues, and theres a richness here that indicates the strength of Brownes knowledge of the era (or so I assume, being no scholar of this setting!). However, despite the convincing depictions, I struggled to visualise the setting or the characters, particularly during the first half of the book, and I have to admit that I wasnt deeply involved as a reader until some 150 pages into it. Part of this I think is the first person approach: the prose is spare and blunt, and given how closely Browne works with her narrators, lacks the lyrical qualities and details that may be needed to help draw a reader into an unfamiliar setting. The words are hard on the page, but though they ring true, they dont evoke.

Another issue is that of the dual narrators. For me, Wolfs Blood is primarily Tristas story, and is told as such. For this reason, the occasional switching to Morcants point of view seemed superfluous, and given the similarity in the voices of both narrators, makes it difficult for the reader to glean what is going on and whose point of view we are currently reading. The book attempts to atone for this by explicitly marking each chapter with Tristas Story or Morcants Story, but this seems unwieldy given that the majority of chapters are Tristas.

Wolfs Blood'is solid and compelling, but something about the voice didnt quite work for me. That said, Im sure it will appeal to others, and Im impressed enough that I certainly plan to finally get around to reading Shadow Web.

Rating: star Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Brownestar Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Brownestar Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browneblankstar Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browneblankstar Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browne (good)

With thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for the review copy

See our other NM Browne reviews

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Your turn: whats your take on books with dual first person narrators?

Other books by N M Browne:

warriors of alavna n m browne Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Brownewarriors of ethandun Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Brownewarriors of camlann Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browneshadow web n m browne Book Review: Wolf Blood by N M Browne

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