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A Companion to Wolves (Iskryne) Hardcover – October 16, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Iskryne Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Rising fantasy stars Monette (Mélusine) and Bear (Whiskey & Water) subvert the telepathic animal companion subgenre so thoroughly that it may never be the same. The inhabitants of a cold and perilous world grounded in Norse/Germanic mythology depend upon the brutally violent wolfcarls, men who bond telepathically with huge fighting trellwolves, to protect them from monstrous trolls and wyverns from further north. When the northern threat suddenly intensifies, Isolfr, a young wolfcarl, and his wolf-sister, Viradechtis, a Queen wolf destined to rule her own pack, are thrust into key roles in their civilization's desperate fight to survive. The meticulously crafted setting and powerful, often moving rendition of characters and relationships—human and nonhuman alike—result in a brutal and beautiful novel about the meaning of honor. Never blushing as they consider the ultimate sociological, sexual and moral underpinnings of a what-if often treated as coy wish-fulfillment fantasy, the authors have boldly created a fascinating world that begs further exploration. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

In a culture in which villages are protected by men bonded to giant telepathic wolves that constitute the key line of defense against trolls, who come from the north and leave devastation in their wake, those wolf-brethren are respected—and used as bogeys to scare misbehaving children. Njall, a jarl's son and heir, is chosen to fill his family's duty to the wolfheall. He goes, despite his father's disapproval, because the wolfheall is the only thing standing between his people and death. Chosen by a trellwolf bitch, he enters into the strange, brutal, ultimately fascinating world of the wolf-brethren. Monette and Bear pull no punches, neither with violence or sex. The world they depict is fraught with a sense of wonder rare even in fantasy, also with the traumatic aura of a place where nearly every custom is foreign. They have taken one of the most escapist of fantasy subgenres, in which humans and animals meld, and turned it into something powerful and surprisingly deeply human; certainly, both human and wolf politics play magnificently well. Schroeder, Regina
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Product Details

  • Series: Iskryne (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765318164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765318169
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Jacobs VINE VOICE on October 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I finished this book yesterday and still am not entirely sure how I feel about it. It's a coming-of-age tale, sure enough, complete with brave warriors fighting nasty trolls, military expeditions to the top of the world, and plenty of angst on the part of the main character, Isolfr. Given who the authors are, you probably won't be surprised to hear that the plot and characterization are top-notch, and the conclusion is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Altogether an excellent effort in many ways. However....

(Warning: spoilers inevitable)

The problem with some of the graphic sex in this book isn't that it's graphic sex. It's that it's basically gang rape. The hero, Isolfr, has bonded with a female wolf. Because what happens sexually among the wolves is mirrored by what happens sexually among their bonded partners (all of whom are men), Isolfr knows that at some point he's going to have to submit to this treatment himself. If this sounds to you like it makes for queasy reading, you're absolutely right. You go through pages and pages with a feeling of dread, just waiting for his wolf to go into heat.

And not to quibble too much about logical inconsistencies, but there is nothing about the whole gang-rape situation that seems inevitable. By this I mean that 1) when the wolves go hunting for game, their human partners do not feel an irresistible urge to run slavering into the woods until they can sink their teeth into some bloody meat; and 2) when the wolves get sleepy, their partners don't fall to the floor and start snoring. Sex is the only one of the basic drives that crosses between human and animal, you see, and no magical reason (or any other kind of reason) for this fact is given.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been reading sf and f for more than 5 decades now, and rarely has a book been able to draw me into its "world" as effectively as this one. Excellent characters. Wonderful writing. Marvelous imagination. And great courage. The storyline is mythic (bad guys are invading, a small group of dedicated warriors must save the day, and to do so must make sacrifices; sound familiar?) and the plotting immaculate. The only flaws include a vast number of name-changing characters (many with named companion wolves)to keep track of and the fact that I actually saw it sitting (in a local bookstore) on the Teen Shelf, where it most certainly does NOT belong. This is, because of some of its content, very obviously an adult novel. I suspect many reviews will center on the "gay sex" aspects of the novel, but it is also a novel about war, so they might just as easily focus on the violence and psychological trauma as well--- Yes, I suppose if you are a homophobe you might be put off and thus miss what is surely one of the most interesting fantasy novels I have read in ages. Resist labeling this extraordinary book as anything other than an excellent, if adult, fantasy. But don't hand it to the children....
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book--I couldn't put it down. But then I love rites of passage tales where the unformed hero takes a difficult path, entering into a whole new life/culture. In this case, teen-aged Njall, son and heir of the local lord does not hide from the tithe of boys that the Wolfcarls demand. These men and their large bonded wolves are all that stand between the villages and the brutal trolls and wyverns that ravage the countryside and honor demands that Njall do what is right despite the sacrifice. And yet, it's not truly a sacrifice since from the first, Njall is fascinated by the wolves. His father, on the other hand, hates the wolves and their men--who are figures of mystery and rumor and almost the bogeymen of children's tales.

This is because the bonded men feel what their wolves feel and act like a pack--which is one of the reasons they are so effective at fighting trolls. The downside is that when wolves go into heat and mate, it also drives the men. Njall, now called Isolfr, bonds with a gorgeous young bitch that is bound to become an alpha/Queen/konigenwolf. They are rare (more males are born, since they are all warriors). Isolfr loves his wolf, adapts well to the wolfheall (house for each local pack of wolfcarls and trellwolves)--all of which is fascinating reading--but he's ambivalent about the mating practices that goes along with being bonded with a female wolf.

The mating scenes are graphic enough, but not as detailed as they could have been. It's mostly that they are depicted with few punches held--not all romantic light-fantasy, but more gritty reality. For me, they gave the tale more depth, in that Isolfr truly is no longer in Kansas and needs to decide what he's capable of and what he truly wants/needs to do.
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Format: Hardcover
This was as well-written as I've come to expect from Sarah Monette, given that I've followed her other fantasy series (Felix Harrowgate/Mildmay the Fox). Isolfr becomes a wolf-carl when he bonds with a female wolf, to his father's displeasure. He deals with plenty of angst throughout the book, as well as graphic, non-consensual sex. It seems that not only do wolf-carls bond telepathically with their wolves, they also experience what the wolves do. However, this only applies to sex. There are quite a few inconsistencies with the plot, including the fact that the men ONLY fall prey to uncontrollable lust. The men don't fall asleep when the wolves decide to take naps, they don't feel the need to eat raw meat or tear out a deer's throat during the hunt. No real explanation is given for this, either, which left me with too many puzzling plot-holes. I'd recommend trying Ms. Monette's other books instead.
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