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Wild Angel Mass Market Paperback – September 17, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Though Wild Angel, Pat Murphy's frontier fantasy, deals with both wolves and westward expansion, readers of her lycanthrope novel Nadya should not expect a retread. This playful homage to the Tarzan books and American tall tales travels a lighter, more sparkling road.

Set in the California gold country between 1850 and 1863, the novel follows the adventures of Sarah McKensie, orphaned at age 3 by a stagecoach robber. Sarah is adopted and nursed by the she-wolf Wauna (who has lost her litter of pups to the same brutal man) and is accepted into the wolf pack. As she matures, Sarah learns to assist in the pack's well-being by contributing human tools--a found knife, a bow and arrow, and a lariat stolen from a would-be cowpoke--to the hunt.

With her best friend and pack-sister Beka at her side, Sarah becomes a local legend--the Wild Angel of the Sierras, rescuer of imperiled travelers. Sarah's altruism is motivated less by compassion than by curiosity, bafflement by the settlers' inability to perceive the world around them, and a passion for biscuits.

Surrounding Sarah is a kaleidoscopic cast: an artist with a shady past; a young Indian shaman; a mesmerist-cum-temperance crusader; a circus impresario with a pack of poodles and an elephant named Ruby; a young woman on the lam from her strait-laced aunt; the hilarious fraternal order E Clampus Vitus (or "Clampers"); Samuel Clemens (in a brief and thwarted cameo); and, of course, two hiss-worthy villains--one human, one lupine.

Throughout this tale of coincidence, chance reunions, heroism, villainy, romance, revenge, and adventure, Murphy weaves deft comedic touches--including Sarah's unforgettable improvisation during a staging of "The Drunkard." Even the one continuity blip near the end of the novel reads not as authorial carelessness but as a knowing wink to the plot-and-character-juggling serial writers of the past.

Murphy has written Wild Angel as a novel by alter-ego/imaginary friend Max Merriwell written as Mary Maxwell. The conceit isn't necessary for enjoyment of the novel, but the three explanatory afterwords, by Maxwell, Merriwell, and Murphy, are pure jam.

Before embarking upon this delightful novel, readers would be well advised to check their realism at the door and adopt the motto of the Clampers--Credo Quia Absurdum, "I believe because it is absurd." --Eddy Avery --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Murphy's previous novel, There and Back Again, paid homage to Frank L. Baum's Oz books. Her latest volume continues the tradition, this time looking back to Edgar Rice Burroughs's legendary Tarzan series (plus a good dash of Mark Twain). Rachel and William McKenzie are hopeful settlers in the gold fields of 1850 California, but their dreams are cut short when they're murdered in their camp not far from the boomtown of Selby. Avoiding death by hiding in a cave, their three-year-old daughter, Sarah, finds that her survival afterward depends upon the wolf pack that adopts her. Sarah avoids humanity for many years, until a chance encounter and subsequent friendship with a young Indian woman shows her that not all people are to be feared. When she saves a family in winter-shrouded Donner Pass, Sarah earns the name "The Wild Angel," but keeps to the land until she meets journalist and adventurer Max Phillips, who has been haunted by her since the day he discovered her parents' bodies but couldn't find their little girl. Sarah's friendship with Max grows over the seasons in secret, for Max suspects that the man who killed her parents is still nearby. When the secret slips out, Sarah must face her enemy and extract justice as the wolf pack has taught her. In an afterword, Murphy cites Burroughs's "shameless use of coincidence" to "arrange the characters to his liking," which is clearly the case here. This novel, lightweight compared to Murphy's earlier work, functions best as an engaging summer read.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; 1st edition (September 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812590422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812590425
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,651,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
aharlib@worldnet.att.net The Wild Angel by Pat Murphy (Tor Books, NY, Aug. 2000, $23.95, hardcover, ISBN#: 0-312-86626-7). Pat Murphy's latest novel The Wild Angel, (also credited as by Mary Maxwell by Max Meriwell in a playful authorial pseudonymous experiment), is the second in a trio of tales paying homage to great classics of imaginative fiction. The first, 'There and Back Again', was a loving pastiche of Tolkien's The Hobbit re-worked as a space opera. This one is faithful to the spirit of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan tales and Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Mowgli stories with a hefty nod to Mark Twain who is quoted in every epigraph for each chapter. The resulting yarn, a delightful cross-genre mix with elements of mystery, western and fantasy/adventure infused with a feminist sensibility, is also a wolf-girl saga that nicely complements the entirely independent Nadya: The Wolf Chronicles (1996). In Gold Rush California (1850), hopeful settlers Rachel and William McKenzie have their dreams cut short when they are murdered by the ruthless robber Jasper Davis in their camp not far from the boomtown of Selby. Their 3 year old daughter Sarah, by hiding in a cave, avoids death, finding her survival depends upon the wolf pack led by the she-wolf Wauna that adopts her. Like her special wolf-companion Beka, one of Wauna's offspring, Sarah grows wild, strong, healthy and wary of humans for many years until a chance encounter and resulting friendship with Malila, a young Miwok Indian woman and shaman who shows her that not all people are to be feared.
Meanwhile, evidence of the crime is discovered by writer/artist Max Philips, but the perpetrator remains unknown.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pat Murphy continues the experiment begun with the delightful THERE AND BACK AGAIN, this time adopting her psuedonym's (Max Merriwell) psuedonym (Mary Maxwell) to provide a fresh take on the myth of the feral child, a premise as old as Romulus and Remus, familiar to afficionados of literature and adventure fiction alike. Whether she herself feels this experiment has been successful is for her to say. However, she certainly SEEMS to be having fun.

The book's obvious model is Burroughs' TARZAN OF THE APES, although one can sense echoes of books like Kipling's THE JUNGLE BOOK, Hudson's GREEN MANSIONS, and even Jane Auel's CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR . It tells the story of young Sarah MacKenzie, who, surviving an attack on her family that leaves her parents dead, is adopted by a wolf pack which makes its home in the California woods. Growing to young adulthood, Sarah becomes a legend to both her pack and the denizens of California, acting as saviour for many endangered travelers. Along the way, Sarah is befriended by the journalist/artist Max Phillips, who helps her seek her roots. But, even as she does so, she is threatened by one of the men who killed her parents, who has since become a pillar of the community in a nearby Gold Rush town.

Wild Angel is a celebration of story itself--Murphy, who, by quoting Twain in the epigram to the first chapter ("Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attmepting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."), makes her intentions quite clear, acknowledges as much in her afterword.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was a book I was really saddened to finish. I truly hated to say goodbye to Sarah McKensie, the main character of the novel, who was transformed by the skillful writing of Pat Murphy into someone I soon grew to deeply like and long to know.

"Wild Angel" tells the tale of a young girl who, after watching her parents gunned down at age three, is raised by wolves and becomes a strong willed and strong muscled heroic savage. Murphy's novel is unabashedly based on the great works of pulp fiction, particularly the Tarzan series, and as such doesn't pretend to be a great classic of social and intellectual literature. Who cares? Possibly because of that, it was one of the most wonderfully enjoyable reads I've experienced in a very, very long time.

Despite the style of writing it was based on, the novel often rose above the level of pulp fiction through Murphy's eye for fine detail. As someone who knows a bit about wolves, I can say that the members of Sarah's non-human family behaved very realistically, and it is clear that Murphy did her research on the biology and behavior of wild canines before writing this volume. (And although exceedingly rare, there have been several well documented cases of abandoned children being raised by non-human surrogate parents. A well-known example is Kamala and Amala, two young girls discovered living with wolves in 1920 near Midnapore, India.) Likewise, so is the Wild West portrayed realistically. Well, yeah, there were some fudges of historical facts here and there, but the feel and flavor of life during those times was played in a caring, painstaking way that made suspension of disbelief extremely easy throughout the story's 180 pages.

I soon became totally entwined in Sarah's life and joyfully became party to her experiences.
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