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The Wolf Age
James Enge
Pyr, 470 pages

The Wolf Age
James Enge
James Enge's fiction has appeared in Black Gate, Flashing Swords, and He is an instructor of classical languages at a Midwestern university.

James Enge Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: This Crooked Way

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

After reading The Wolf Age, it seems James Enge is doing something fairly rare in today's fantasy scene. In mainstream fantasy today, for the most part, we have two schools of thought: stand-alone and series based literature. James Enge is doing neither. He's going "old-school" harkening back to times when pulp fiction authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Howard were writing their heroic characters: Tarzan and Conan. In those days readers couldn't be bogged down in an ongoing series of sequentially ordered books. They wanted to be entertained cheaply and quickly, so these stand alone adventures novels became popular. It was simple. You had a larger than life character that readers knew and cared about, you read an adventure story about him and you moved on. James Enge has created a character, a very good character, in Morlock Ambrosius and appears to be writing stand-alone adventures. However, readers who are completely unfamiliar with Morlock will want to read Enge's first installment The Blood of Ambrose. It will do wonders for the reader's understanding of Morlock's character, history and powers, but it isn't really necessary that you read This Crooked Way before The Wolf Age, both novels could very well be subtitled "The Further Adventures of Morlock Ambrosius."

The Wolf Age finds Morlock in Wuruyaaria: the city of werewolves. The story begins with Morlock being captured by a band of werewolves and subsequently imprisoned. Eventually, Morlock befriends a few fellow prisoners and, without giving you too many details, soon finds himself in the middle of a political power struggle. To complicate matters, other unseen forces are at work and are using Morlock and the city of werewolves as pawns in a much larger game.

The story itself is a solid one and should keep readers not only entertained but guessing throughout. It's filled with the usual Enge touches that readers who are familiar with him will enjoy. He brings his magic system which is an unusual melding of engineering, science and the supernatural. His witty fast pace and dark humor are in full form and, of course, there is no shortage of bloodletting. However, I felt the real strength of The Wolf Age has to be the werewolf society of Wuruyaaria that Enge has created for the story. As the book unfolds, Enge reveals the various details of the political, religious and economic aspects of the werewolves' society. For example, the society's hierarchy is based on "bite," which is represented by chains of teeth. Bite can be earned many ways. The most common of which are fighting or through economic or political prosperity. The werewolf political system is similar to our own with differing factions slandering other factions and hidden alliances abound, but their political rallies and elections are nothing more then factions of werewolves getting together and howling at each other eventually ending in a brawl. Come to think of it, it's exactly like our own.

Furthermore, not all werewolves are created equally. Some werewolves can't fully make the change to one form or another while some werewolves are able to resist changing their wolf form when exposed to one of Wuruyaaria three moons. I can continue to cite examples of the kind of detail Enge has put into his city of werewolves, but I think you get the idea of how well thought out the setting is. The fact the James Enge has gone to this much trouble creating this highly developed society for what may very well be a one time visit speaks volumes about Enge's attention to detail. If it is James Enge plan to do stand alone adventure and he continues to employ the kind of TLC he used when writing The Wolf Age, it will be a welcome change of pace in the fantasy scene and perfect fare for those that don't want to be bogged down waiting for months or sometimes years (you know who you are) for unresolved plot lines to be finished. The Wolf Age is fast, dark, smart and full of plot twists and, best of all, entertaining.

Copyright © 2010 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best."

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