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She Wulf Paperback – August 1, 2012
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Day of First Sun was a spectacular read, but I don't think I went into depth as much as I could have. So, for She Wulf, I've decided to be more thorough. I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book, and I honestly can't wait to buy it when it's published.
Let's get the simply stuff out-of-the-way.
I'll start, with the prologue, and by stating that narrative this book reads like Poe. It is descriptive genius at its best.
"Thick white clouds gathered at the center of the library. It floated toward the highest shelf, where a book shook and sputtered as it ate away the heavy mist. As the last of the vapor lifted, a white, hot light flashed before burning out, leaving the book on its shelf as it had for centuries."
What's not to love about that? It makes a great opening, similar to The Fall of the House of Usher, and lets the reader step into fantasy-land. I find there are two reactions way in which fantasy/sci-fi authors set up their worlds. One involves creating the world by slowly/descriptively infusing physical parameters into the world. The other sort of pukes it all out o n to the page than smacks the reader with a stick and says 'IDIOT, don't you know how my world works?'
She Wulf world - no puking there. It's glorious blissful narration adds elements at a pace that is sort-of like think painting.
Think painting - I think therefore it appears.
That (think painting) reminds me of another aspect of Sheryl Steines' writing which is the closest thing to magic I've read in a long time.
That quite simply is her ability to instantly portray tone and personality through dialogue. I will admit that at one point, I loved the show Friends. I can still tolerate it in a background noise way, similar to other sitcoms. This book, has the magic that Friends did, they actually jump off the page (very quickly I might add) as a group of friends who are intimately attached, and believe in each other. (Each in their own unique/magical/quirky way.)
Cham, Annie, Spencer and everyone else actually - even if only characters in passing emerge from the page with an entire multi-faceted personality in place. I'm sure that there is some of my own placing of attributes and qualities on everyone, but part of an enjoyable read is being able to identify with everyone in the book in some way.
Steines' writing is as magical as all the characters in the book put together. Her prowess is a super-magic being that transcends all others.
Fundamentally the book is a stoic force to conquer all others in its path. It reads like a movie script waiting to be made, and I haven't even given you the basic plot line.
On the path of movieness, there are vikings, daemons, and a myriad of other creatures that inhabit the world of magic that would make for some great programming and effects in a full length movie. Think Star_Trek ship porn, but with magical creatures.
There's enough action that my heart began racing while I was reading it. It was simply wonderful to read a book that was as fast paced as I needed it to be. There's a portal - and in my experience (reading maybe not in real life?) portals are never a good thing. They lead somewhere, but they tend to be tricky bastards that don't lead back to the same place, or disappear and have to be re-opened. Portals bring about misery, though they also often give in and let us come back after a lengthy battle even if it's just a battle of wills. I hope, that Annie and Cham will always win.
In my world (which could be arguably small) Star trek sits a-top the peak of things I enjoy. She Wulf, has climbed to a perch sitting slightly below, but very close to all my star trek love. I haven't loved a sci-fi world much more than Anne Rice The Vampire Chronicles and Anne McCaffrey's Crystal singer or Pern series. This book joins that crowd.
Can you tell I have a thing for strong narratives and multi-faceted characters?
When I first started reading She Wulf, I was not aware that this book is a re-telling of Beowulf from the perspective of a woman as hero. Sure, the author has taken liberties and set the book in the present day with a time-travelling adventure element, but many aspects of the old legend are still in place. This brings me to another aspect that I liked about this book: the world-building was very well done! I know a bit about England in the 1000s from my Old English course and actually translated a part of Beowulf, too, and Steines did a good job at bringing that world to life in a believable way. Also the Wizard Guard (some kind of magical police), their lifestyle, and the magic Annie and the other characters can do was well thought through and made me want to know more of how the wizards interact with ordinary humans and about their history.
My main problem, though, was that I just couldn't connect with any of the characters, so quite often I didn't really care all that much about what was happening to them. The novel is written in the third person, which makes sense because the perspective alternates between Annie (stuck in the past) and Cham or one of the other wizards in the present who are trying to get her back. Though I prefer first person narratives, I usually have no problem connecting with characters portrayed from a third person perspective if the reader still gets believable insight into their feelings and thoughts. But here, I somehow felt more like a distanced outside observer. Another problem with giving the reader such an omniscient perspective was that many new discoveries the characters make are told twice because both groups, past and present, need to find out about them. This made me feel like the book was dragging, especially in the middle.
Maybe if I had read the prequel and knew how Cham and Annie got together, I would have cared more about them and rooted for their relationship. But having only read She Wulf, I didn't really see any chemistry between them and was largely indifferent to Cham's grief when he was left behind in the present. I wished he would stop moaning and moping around her desk and actually do something, like the others! I lost count of how often he cried or had tears in his eyes. I like it when men show some feelings, but he just came across as weak and unable to take action on his own. I cared more about Spencer, Annie's newly assigned partner, who always looked out for her and took care of her when she got sick in the Viking's village. Later, when it is revealed that Annie is part of an ancient prophecy and actually supposed to be in the past to fulfill her destiny, I must admit that I didn't understand why it was so important that Cham get to her at all. I felt like he didn't trust her to get the job done.
What I enjoyed was that part of the story was told from the Viking's perspective! I really liked his voice and the glimpse inside his head I got with that, and it was interesting to see Annie through his eyes. Generally I liked the parts that dealt with the Viking village and their relations to the Coven of magicians (the two don't really get on). Both groups kept secrets from Annie and Spencer and trying to figure out who was friend and who was foe kept me guessing. I also liked the descriptions of the demon attacks on the village a lot, they were realistic. The way to defeat the demons, though, was something I thought the Coven should have been able to figure out on their own, without bringing in help from a thousand years in the future.
Overall, this novel shows great ideas for creating a magical world parallel to our own, good historical research, and a well-structured plot arc. The characterization and some of the story-telling narrative aspects just weren't for me. I think I'm not romantic enough. If you're a fan of lovers parted and trying to find a way back to each other across space and time you should give it a chance though. The mixture of demons, old English lore, wizards, magic, portals, spells, and time travelling is pretty unique!
I don't like giving this one a `meh' review, but I also want to be honest. I hope I could provide a fair assessment of what I thought were the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Judging from some of the other reviews I've read I think it just wasn't my cup of coffee.
Most recent customer reviews
I have to say I think this is better than the first one.Read more
I read the first book in this series, The Day of First Sun, about a month ago.Read more