the Little Red Reviewer

Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan

Posted on: December 7, 2011

Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan

published in March 2011

where I got it: library

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Even in the largest of Viking villages, there isn’t much to do.  Farm, fish, train, raid, repeat, and even the Norse Gods get bored sometimes.  And what better cure for a god’s boredom than having themselves born into a human body and forgetting who and what they are?  As long as Odin, all father, all hater, and ultimate God of War, welcomes his dead warriors to Valhalla, most Vikings don’t really care what he does in his spare time.

Wolfsangel is a brutal and visceral retelling of ancient Norse mythology, and Lachlan had me hooked in the first chapter with teeth didn’t let go until the final page.  Exquisitely violent, this is not a book for the faint of heart. I don’t think Odin would accept anything less.

In desperate need of a male heir, King Authun follows a prophecy to towards a child rumored to be stolen from the Gods. Instead, he finds identical infant twins, and their scarred mother. The Witches of the mountains allow Authun to keep one child, and they keep the mother and the other child for themselves.  One boy is raised as Prince and then ward, the other is raised by the wolfmen in the wilderness.

One child, Vali, is raised to be Authun’s heir.  Much to the disappointment of his future father-in-law Forkbeard, Vali shows little interest in politics or warfare, especially due to the events surrounding his first raid. Vali would prefer to spend time with visiting traders, learning about far away lands and languages. Even worse, he’s in love with the farmgirl Adisla, who is most certainly not his betrothed.  When the village faces danger from an invading force of wolfmen, Forkbeard offers Vali a choice: Return with the wolfman, dead or alive, or watch as Adisla is sacrificed to Odin.

Meanwhile, the other child, Feileg, has been raised in the wilderness, trained to walk that delicate line between human and animal. Living and hunting with the wolves, Feileg forgot long ago what it means to be human. And then he meets a girl.

It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you the brothers do eventually meet. As one brother reaches for his humanity, the other slowly loses his, dragged into magics he can not control. I couldn’t help but wonder of the symbolism of their twin-ness,  perhaps they are two halves of the same person, two mutually exclusive decisions or actions. Don’t get me wrong, their story will leave you marked, but if that’s all I talked about it would be easy to think that’s all this book is about.  I got two words for you: Witches and Werewolves.

Lachlan could have taken the easy route. He could have simply said “the witches had powerful magic” and left it at that.  But no. He takes us deep into the recesses of their minds, into their starvation rituals, deprivations, poisons and near death experiences in their attempts to speak with the gods. Who could expect a God of Death to deign to speak with you if you’re not willing to meet him half way?  When starvation and occasional drowning is involved, there’s a fine line between enlightenment and insanity.  Your landing spot on that line depends on how badly you need to speak to the gods.  The fact that it’s not exactly magic, but more mind manipulation made it all the more fascinating to me. Suffice to say, I was completely blown away by Lachlan’s  witches.

And then of course, there is the werewolf. Trapped in a pattern of ultimate transformation and suffering,  his is the most horrific path of all.  Maybe the witches have some true magic after all.

A story about the beginning of the end, Wolfsangel is a story in which not even the gods have free will.  If you enjoy historical fantasy,  if you don’t mind a little terror in the night follow by a vicious twist, Wolfsangel is a book for you. Previous knowledge of Norse mythology not needed, Lachlan offers up plenty of cultural history and mythology through the dialog between characters, but never so much at any one time that if feels forced or stilted. Wolfsangel was an exceptional read for me, and I can’t wait to read the second book in the series, Fenrir.

Death was always nearby for the Vikings, be it by starvation, or cold, or childbirth, or raiders from the next valley.  They tempered the fear of death by glorifying it and by honoring their dead through story and song. I know I’m romanticizing it, but isn’t that part of the wonder and beauty of story telling? The taking of something horrible and making it alluring? I’m certainly in no hurry to visit any afterlife, but if you’ve gotta die, you might as well look forward to place like Valhalla.

On a much, much lighter note, has anyone see the Billy and Mandy episode where they go to Valhalla? it’s hilarious.

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7 Responses to "Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan"

Sounds like a great one! I’ll keep an eye out for it here.

I’m glad to see that you liked this one, since Fenrir arrived in the mail the other day, so wanted to read this before Fenrir:) And I HAVE seen the Billy and Mandy episode where they go to Valhalla. It’s brilliant. I adore that show:)

Want to read!
Great review Red!

I have never heard of this before, but it sounds good!

Impressive cover!

You got me on the cover and the second paragraph! Nice review

Yes! everyone, go read this! I got my copy of Fenrir, can’t wait to finish my Charlie Stross (Fuller Memorandum – awesome!), so I can tear into Fenrir.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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