If you like Game of Thrones…
I always approach recommendations with a certain air of caution. They will usually be from someone very close to me and I don’t want to insult them by saying that I didn’t like the book they had gone out of their way to offer me. In a very real way recommendations are one of the most personal things we can give each other. It’s our way of saying “something in these pages connected with me and I really hope it does the same to you”. So when a recommendation came to me from my girlfriend I was somewhat more cautious than usual. Scrap that, I was bloody terrified! What if I didn’t like it? What if it was truly awful? Would this first recommendation from her be the last?
The book in question was Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon. In a land ruled by a perverted High Prince whose sexual preferences guarantee no heir to the throne, it is up to his younger sister Marla to continue the Wolfblade line. Unfortunately for Marla this means she has no choice on husbands as the most powerful warlords around look to marry her and have their child one day sit on the throne. Luckily for Marla she has a friend, The dwarf Eleazar, who starts to teach her the rules of politics. Over the course of the book we see Marla transform from the scared young girl attending her first ball, to a powerful political figure with serious ambition.
Luckily for my relationship, I loved this book! It’s a fantastic story and despite a slightly slow start it had me gripped. Firstly, it focuses more on the George RR Martin approach to fantasy rather than the Tolkien. After Tolkien gave us Lord of the Rings almost every fantasy novel started to follow a very similar pattern. There was a quest for something stolen, an unlikely hero and there was usually a wise old man somewhere in the mix. The other style is to give us a world where there is the potential for fantasy but a focus on the people and this is the world that Fallon offers us in Wolfblade. There is magic in this book but it is in small doses and doesn’t distract from the power plays and political intrigue that shapes the majority of the novel.
Warning, If you do like the Tolkien style of fantasy and getting attached to characters so that you can see them have a happy ending then maybe stay away from this book. It’s one of the reasons I think that GOT fans will thoroughly like it. Fallon has no problem with killing her characters, even if we have had 700 pages to grow into them. Where this differs from GOT is that things happen at quite a pace. We don’t have to worry about characters wondering around for chapters on end, when things happen in this book they happen fast!
It’s slightly blunter than other fantasy books. Some authors choose to dance around subjects of sex and affairs, merely hinting at the discretions of the characters. Wolfblade not only admits that these things are happening but openly describes them. There’s a wonderful conversation between Eleazar and a very naïve Marla about different fetishes that leaves very little to the imagination. Because of this, and other more graphic sequences, I definitely wouldn’t recommend Wolfblade to younger readers. In other words, if your kid has just finished Lord of the Rings, don’t choose this as their next book.
So who should read this book? Fantasy fans will love it and any fans of the GOT show on TV who found the books a bit heavy will also enjoy. Politics students should read this as well because the examples of power play and shifting balances are wonderfully explained. You have to be dedicated though. There are 6 books in the series and the first of them is 700 pages long. Personally, I can’t wait to dive into the next one but if you like your literature a bit shorter and sweeter, maybe look elsewhere.