Fenrir, by M.D. Lachlan
Posted December 27, 2011on:
Fenrir, by M.D. Lachlan
Published in Oct 2011
where I got it: library
why I read it: enjoyed the first book in the series, Wolfsangel
For no good reason, I had a tough time getting into Fenrir. I think I was expecting a similar opening as Wolfsangel had, with Vikings and raids and witches and such, so I was caught off guard by being introduced to so many characters who were clearly, not Vikings. Where were Vali and Feileg, the twin brothers I cried for in Wolfsangel? Where was the beautiful Adisla, whom they both swore to protect? I know my mythological friends are here someplace, for it is their destiny to be reborn, if only to be tortured by the gods again and again and again. Perhaps they were born into Vikings, or perhaps traders from the East, or perhaps Frankish Christians. Hiding Odin and Fenris in Frankish Christians who haven’t a clue what’s going on? That’s just cruel.
Aelis, a minor Frankish princess, is worth her weight in political marriages. And everyone wants Aelis. Helgi, an Eastern Viking Prince of Constantinople wants to maybe marry her, maybe sacrifice her. Her brother, a Parisian Count, opts to keep her, hoping for a better offer. Multiple Viking factions know she’s worth her weight in ransom, so the new name of the game is kidnap Aelis.
Jehan, oh, poor Jehan. Stricken with paralysis and blindness as a youth, he is now a monk, and seen as a living saint. His timing to Paris couldn’t be worse, and he is trapped in the church when the Vikings attack. The Vikings know all about relics, and the worth of the bones of a saint, so suddenly Jehan is also worth quite a bit in ransom, dead or alive. Years from now, I will still pity Jehan.
And then we have Munin and Hugin, the horrific sibling priests of Odin. More on them later.
Thus begins a violent trip from Paris, across Europe, to Ladoga, in what will one day become Russia. Aelis hopes to find safety and protection with Prince Helgi, the trader Leshii hopes to make some profit on his journey, and handfuls of surviving Vikings just want to be with their own kind in a longhouse. Along with Hugin and Munin, Jehan can’t help but follow.
As the prophecy reads, when the three become one, Odin will walk this Earth, and he will be pulled towards the wolf, as it is his destiny to die under the Fenris Wolf’s teeth. Sometimes the only way to help a god, is to hinder him, and Hugin and Munin will do anything to keep the gods from awakening and realizing who and what they are. Known as The Ravens, this disturbing brother sister pair offer the Franks ample reason to see the Vikings as disgusting savages.
As their journeys continue, Aelis thinks she’s going crazy because of the images that float in her mind. Jehan praises God that his sight and body have returned. But as his body grows stronger and healthier, his hunger grows more savage and dangerous. Jehan goes through a grisly transformation, and I don’t know which is more painful, the physical one or the spiritual. Like I said, I will be pitying Jehan for a long, long time. If you’ve read Wolfsangel, you’ve probably already guessed what he is forced to endure.
And yes, Fenrir does have it’s share of Vikings, beyond the crazed Ravens. It’s funny, for “savages”, they are the smartest people around. Sure, they psych themselves up to attack monestaries and burn villages, but they are smart enough to know when it’s just not worth it and perhaps it would be best to wait until that other faction of Vikings left first. The Vikings were my favorite part.
My major frustration with Fenrir was the pacing. For a story that is probably 90% action, it felt oddly draggy and slow at parts. For a large portion of the book, it felt like the characters were stuck in a pattern of run, fight Vikings, get captured, escape, run, fight, get captured, rinse repeat. It was a relief when the pattern broke, as I was quickly losing my patience. I’m hoping other readers aren’t as annoyed as I was about it. Petty frustrations aside, Fenrir was a great read, and I’m curious to see what Lachlan does next, as he’s more than successfully proven you can tell the same story twice in two completely different ways.
Not a story for the faint of heart or stomach, Fenrir reads like a wine goblet overflowing with violence, action, and the cruelty of the Norse gods. The wine is heady and delicious, so you want to drink it, but you know it’s twisted substance will change you into something else, something beyond your control. A very different book than Wolfsangel, Fenrir is both more linear and more mysterious with language more surreal and hypnotic. Some reviewers have said you can read Fenrir as a stand alone because the characters are all different, but I suggest you do read Wolfsangel first, just for the context.