Friday, February 18, 2011

Wolfsangel book review

Wolfsangel is the first fantasy novel by Mark Barrowcliffe under the nom-de-plume MD Lachlan. M.D. Lachlan obviously loves Norse mythology and is an ex-roleplayer (he also wrote the Elfish Gene). Both of these things endeared the book to me before I’d even opened it, since I too love Norse mythology, and play role-playing games. In fact I learned a lot of my Norse myths from role-playing, and I’m guessing that M.D. Lachlan did too. However, I didn’t actually read the book for quite a while, since the publicity emphasised that it was about werewolves, rather than Vikings. This conjured up (to me at any rate), visions of Lon Chaney-esque wolfmen baying at the full moon before getting their come-uppance from a suitable bit of silver.

This isn’t that sort of book. Instead it evokes the bleak landscapes of the Norse sagas, with violent death and evil seidr magic constantly threatening, and indeed, killing most of the books characters. The wolf in question is the Fenrisulfr, the spawn of Loki, enemy of Odin, the hanged god, battle-bold and one-eyed. And the seidr – the dark and dangerous runemagic of women - is suitably filthy and murderous. Something no Aesir-respecting warrior should dabble in.

In fact the story begins when King Authun the pitiless, a Viking Jarl, leads his berserks on a raid to kidnap a magical child on the basis of a witch’s prophecy. Even the men who survive must sacrifice themselves for the king’s prophecy to be fulfilled. In fact he finds two children. Things go downhill for Authun after that.

The main characters, Authun, his kidnapped sons Vali and Fealig, and their shared love-interest Adisla are well drawn and easy to sympathise with, and the story is suitably complex and involving. It has a strong sense of time and place, and I particularly like the fact that the author has translated a lot of the Norse words, as this is the way that the Norse would have actually heard the legends. I love the way that, for example, Fenris is tied with a cord called Thin to a rock called Scream. It’s all very redolent of the sagas.

So if you like Vikings, magic, death and accomplished storytelling, this is the sort of thing you’ll like.