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Wolfsangel
M.D. Lachlan
Gollancz, 439 pages

Wolfsangel
M.D. Lachlan
M.D. Lachlan is the pen name for the fantasy work of author and journalist Mark Barrowcliffe who is the British author of Girlfriend 44 and Infidelity for First-Time Fathers. He lives in Brighton, England with his dog.

M.D. Lachlan Website
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A review by Nathan Brazil

'So Adisla kissed him and said the traditional parting words from a wife to a warrior setting out for battle.
'Kill a hundred of them for me.'
He nodded, squeezed her to him and then let her go.
'Run,' he said. 'Run for your life.'
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I was slightly put off to find that the first page of Wolfsangel was a letter from the Deputy Publishing Director, almost declaring the book to be a work of genius. Usually, any book that is really good is not a book where the reader needs it spelled out. Happily, the premise was genuinely an interesting one, and sparked my imagination straight away.

Viking King Athun goes on a raid against an Anglo-Saxon village, but not for the usual rape and pillage that such chaps traditionally enjoy. On this occasion, Athun is acting on a prophecy which told him that the Saxons have stolen a child from the Norse gods. The deal is, if the childless Athun takes the boy and raises him as his heir, the child will lead his people to glory. However, what the King discovers is not one, but two boys; twins whom he kidnaps, along with their self-mutilated mother, and returns home. There, he gives one child to the witches who inhabit the Troll Wall, and keeps the other to raise as his son. So begins what is intended to be a multi-volume fantasy epic, tracking the birth of a werewolf from his earliest beginnings, through the ages, hunting for lost love, and being the fulcrum of the endless battles between Loki and Odin.

M.D. Lachlan melds accurate Viking life, with Norse mythology, and a sea-salt fresh re-imaging of the werewolf. The result is a mostly fast moving tale, which takes the occasional liberty with the credibility of its plot, yet holds attention well and meshes its twin sources of inspiration into something that feels natural. Entertaining, if slightly predictable characters abound, including oily merchant Veles Libor, berserker Bodva Bjarki, Bragi, an old warrior somewhat like Jaffa master Bra'tac in Stargate SG-1, Feileg, a wild man who declares himself to be a wolf, spoiled Prince Vali, and Adisla, the farm girl that Vali loves.

Their story ebbs and flows between pedestrian passages, where I found myself irritated by some characters incongruous lapses of intelligence, and absolutely riveting stuff such as Prince Vali's use of a drowning pool in order to gain mystic insight. The author has a tendency to meander through his work, and some sequences, mostly toward the end of the story, seemed to be in slightly the wrong place, time-wise. Not that it was a great impediment, as by that stage the plot had taken on a dream-like quality. Ultimately, there was a suitably brutal resolution, and a gentle set up for the next volume. Whether the same trick will work twice remains to be seen, but on this outing M.D. Lachlan does succeed in his aim; the re-imaging of classic horror mythology. The big twist, is telegraphed far in advance, at least for discerning readers, but in this case knowing is not really a spoiler, as context is far more important. My only complaint was that -- giving nothing away -- the character in question would have been immensely improved had he been a little more subtle and a little less wooden. Attention to detail which I feel sure M.D. Lachlan will provide in the next volume.

In summary, Wolfsangel is not the most frightening werewolf tale ever published, but does stand up quite well, and fits right in with more classical Viking stories. What's on offer is a fresh blend of genres, which shows a great deal of potential for the future. I will be interested to see where M.D. Lachlan takes us, and if the eternal wolf and his lost love can develop into the complex, multi-layered characters which this first story only suggests. If that can be achieved, then the gushing praise of the Deputy Publishing Director might eventually ring true.

Copyright © 2010 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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