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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on September 4, 2015
Aside from Erevis Cale, Tal was the character whose stand-alone novel I was the most excited to read after I finished "Halls of Stormweather." He had the most interesting challenge (trying to find a cure for his lycanthropy), and I wanted to see how he resolved it (if it was even possible). I wasn't totally disappointed, but I didn't feel fully satisfied either.

On the plus side, I felt that Gross did a great job of getting into Tal's head. He made it clear that Tal was struggling to retain his independence, as he had long done with his father. But, he now had to face a number of other people trying to get him to do what they wanted, and the stakes were a lot higher than they were when he was trying to convince his father to accept his acting career. I also thought that his relationship with Chaney was a great addition to the "Sembia" series. I won't spoil his story, but Chaney's struggles bring a different perspective on Sembia's elites to the table.

On the negative side, I would agree with other reviewers that the vampire story was an unnecessary complication that detracted from the larger story. I really would've been happy to see Tal just face Rusk, and the connection between the two stories -- between Rusk and the vampire -- was so weak that it made the vampire parts all the more awkward. (In fact, I'm writing this review a little while after finishing the book, and I can't even remember exactly what that connection was.) Finally, the romance sub-plot felt like a forced addition to a story that aleady had too many sub-plots.

Overall, we do get a resolution (of sorts) to Tal's challenge, but I felt that the story getting us there could've been stronger.
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on November 8, 2001
'Black Wolf' is Dave Gross' follow-up to his short story in the "Sembia - Halls of Stormweather" anthology. It centers on Talbot Uskevren, the son of a noble family who has recently become a werewolf.
Gross' story is well written and well paced, filled with an impressively diverse cast of characters including the young hero Talbot, his rival Rusk (the werewolf who infected him), a bizarre shark-like vampire, an old gypsy wise-woman, a moon-worshiping religious cult and an extended pack of rustic werewolves. The novel features countless nods to the classic 1930's film "The Wolf Man" - most noticeably in the names of some of the main characters - Talbot, Maleva and Chaney. The most impressive aspect of the novel is the nearly equal focus on the world of the villains - complex characters with strong motives, not merely an unspoken devotion to some evil code of conduct. The scenes set among the forest-dwelling werewolf pack are frequently more engaging than the trials of the book's hero.
The only weak spots come from spotty editing - Some descriptive lines and phrases are repeated almost verbatim within a few paragraphs, as if the author has forgotten that he's already said it. These flaws are minimal though, and don't mar the engaging storyline that carries the book.
Particularly high praise goes to Mr. Gross for raising "Black Wolf" above the bar of standard 'role-playing novel' fare, usually overstocked with evil wizards, dragons and mystical quests. Even the inclusion of a monkey-like pair of 'cute animal' characters named Otter & Lommy is handled with refreshing restraint.
Those who haven't read the former books in the series will at least want to read the "Black Wolf" chapter of "Halls of Stormweather" to jump-start their familiarity with the land of Sembia.
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on December 8, 2001
I enjoyed all of the Sembia series and was really looking forward to this novel coming out. I was not too disappointed, but it could have been better. This story revolves around Talbot Uskevren, Chaney and Rusk. Talbot is a good werewolf, Chaney is his shady companion and Rusk is an evil werewolf who infected Talbot in the first place. They do battle with a weird vampire, his swordmaster brother and a sap named Darrow. I felt that too much of the plot revolved around Darrow who was just introduced then it did around Talbot.
I thought that I would get to know Talbot better by the end of this book, but that was not the case. Another bad point is that alot of pages went into Rusk and his animal pack out in the woods than the main character. However, there were some good fight scenes and the faiths of Malar and Selune were made more present to the reader. I just wish Talbot was discussed more. The other supporting characters got too much space. This is still a good read, especially for FR fans.
One more thing, alot of the characters in this book are based on The Wolfman (a 1941 Universal horror film). We have Talbot, Chaney and Maleva. All these had a part in that film which I also recommend.
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on August 17, 2005
The Sembia series is a series of books that intriqued me fromt he start. An interesting concept having a bunch of authors write books about the same cast of characters for the most part. Yet, this book stuck out in the series to me.

It's a fantastic take on werewolves int he Forgotten realms setting. When you really think about it there haven't been a lot of book in the Forgotten Realms dedicated to Werewolves or Vampires. Yet, this one tackles werewolves in grand fashion. The plot is seemingly easy to understand until you get deeper into the book and it starts to get more complex.

The character development through out the book is very subtle, but effectively done. I also like how the main character, Talbot, is not the typical hero in that he has doubts and he's not perfect, he has flaws. He's not all powerful, he can be hurt. Truly a great character to read about.

Fans of the Forgotten Realms will enjoy this book. People just coming into the Forgotten Realms could do worse than starting with this one.
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on October 8, 2005
I know this is a bold statement, but this novel is easily the best installment in the Forgotten Realms universe. The writing and plot actually venture into the world of real "literature". The love story, action and drama of the protagonists' triple life (actor, werewolf, scion of an important family) all combine to make a truly compelling novel. This is probably not a good "first" Forgotten Realms Novel: I always recommend Shadowdale, Tantras and Waterdeep, but if you are looking for a good tale set in everyone's favorite fantasy campaign world, this is where to look.
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on February 24, 2011
Well I'll go ahead and reveal how much of a nerd I am. I was actually looking for information on werewolves and lycanthropes for my D&D game, my character is in fact a werewolf. I wanted to get into his mind and delve a little deeper into controlling the beast within, so I started trying to find books about werewolves. Lo and behold I find one, and it's even set in the D&D universe. And I was not disappointed in the least. Excellent plot, well-written, and I enjoyed the description of the protagonist's mental state whenever the curse overcame him. Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a glimpse ino the mind of a "monster".
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on March 5, 2014
Half the early book (very slow starter) follows Darrow, an evil vampire's human servant. I saw the positive reviews here about a great D&D-setting werewolf novel, and I bought it. It didn't hit that hype for me. While I did enjoy some scenes (featuring Talbot the werewolf), the book focuses on supporting characters. That wasn't the reading experience I was looking for. Parts struck me as more 'Ravenloft' than 'Forgotten Realms', and I think this could have been a much better story if the author had only focused on his good-werewolf protagonist instead of the misguided or unapologetically evil perspective characters.

I got the Selune and Malar understory Mr. Gross was spinning, and while it is more nuanced than the typical D&D offering, it never truly came together. Structurally, this read more like two separate novellas, one about Darrow and one about Talbot.
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on May 3, 2007
"Black Wolf" by Dave Gross is the fourth installment in "Sembia" series of novels. The preceding books ranged from good to great, and considering they were written by different authors, one must give them credit for that. This novel isn't any different.

Gross succeeds in making his main character, Talbot Uskreven, heroic without making him cheesy. A rare thing in WoTC novels, indeed. In fact, all of the characters in this book are very good, consistent, interesting and somehow different. It may be the motivations that make them so memorable. Ranging from treacherous servants to demented vampires, this novel really offers a great set of heroes and villains. This book covers a year and a half, so there is much space for character development, done in a nice, natural way. No sudden epiphanies here.

The plot is also very strong, with a fair number of twists and turns, but not too hectic. It keeps a steady progress, and the author gives us something in every chapter.

I loved Gross' detailed writing. Somebody may consider it boring, but I really enjoy this kind of writing over action-centered one. I just wonder why this guy didn't write any more novels.

Usually this is the part where I write about things I didn't like about the book, but this time I'm leaving it blank.

If you liked this novel, you ought to check out Mistress of the Night (Forgotten Realms: The Priests) by Dave Gross and Don Bassingthwaite. It is a good novel, and fairly similar to this one, dealing with werewolves and all that. There is also a short story featuring Talbot and his acting troupe in Realms of Dragons anthology, written by Gross, of course.

Nothing more to say, really. You should check this book out if you like rich fantasy writing.
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on August 19, 2007
"Black Wolf" by Dave Gross is the fourth installment in "Sembia" series of novels. The preceding books ranged from good to great, and considering they were written by different authors, one must give them credit for that. This novel isn't any different.

Gross succeeds in making his main character, Talbot Uskreven, heroic without making him cheesy. A rare thing in WoTC novels, indeed. In fact, all of the characters in this book are very good, consistent, interesting and somehow different. It may be the motivations that make them so memorable. Ranging from treacherous servants to demented vampires, this novel really offers a great set of heroes and villains. This book covers a year and a half, so there is much space for character development, done in a nice, natural way. No sudden epiphanies here.
The plot is also very strong, with a fair number of twists and turns, but not too hectic. It keeps a steady progress, and the author gives us something in every chapter.
I loved Gross' detailed writing. Somebody may consider it boring, but I really enjoy this kind of writing over action-centered one. I just wonder why this guy didn't write any more novels.

Usually this is the part where I write about things I didn't like about the book, but this time I'm leaving it blank.

If you liked this novel, you ought to check out Mistress of the Night (Forgotten Realms: The Priests) by Dave Gross and Don Bassingthwaite. It is a good novel, and fairly similar to this one, dealing with werewolves and all that. There is also a short story featuring Talbot and his acting troupe in Realms of Dragons anthology, written by Gross, of course.

Nothing more to say, really. You should check this book out if you like rich fantasy writing.
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on January 17, 2003
The only reason that this book gets 4 stars rather thatn 5 is beacause it really doesn't focus on Talbot, the hero, as much as it should have. Otherwise, that is the only flaw.
This book gives some really good insight into the god Malar, even though he never appears. If you have read Jewels of the Turmish (if not please don't) Malar is quite poorly portrayed. In JotT he creates undead to fight his battles, which is hard to swallow since he is a god of the forest/hunt. Werewolves really fit well into hius philosophies and for the first time I think Dave Gross nailed this semi-evil god right on. The goddess Selune is also discussed, but not quite as much, but enough to get an idea of her powers in the realms.
There is some great characterization, the villains are excellent and the poor schmoe Darrow is the perfect anitithesis to Talbot. The secondary characters are engaging (notably Quickly and the High Cleric of Selune) as well. I hope Gross will crank out another gem like this soon. This is the first Sembia book I have read, and I will make certain to read the others.
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