Synopsis: Two races meet on the battlefield. They are the Anakim, who live in the north of Albion and the Sutherners who occupy the south. During the battle, the Black Lord of the Anakim, Kynortas, is killed and command falls to his 19-year-old son Roper. The Anakim retreat and Roper is blamed for the defeat by Uvoren, the Captain of the Guard and the novel’s main antagonist. Roper gathers allies and grows into the role of the Black Lord over the course of the book, which culminates in a final battle in which the Anakim are victorious.
Review: This was a great and intriguing read. Leo Carew does a fantastic job of sustaining the tension as the story unfolds. He has created a great and very relatable protagonist in Roper and an equally excellent villain in Uvoren. The language used to describe the battles is epic and poetic, which changes to more workaday prose when Carew describes ordinary events. The world building in this book is top notch; I was fascinated by the culture of the Anakim and how that contrasted with that of the Sutherners. It is interesting that the Anakim prefer to be among the elements or maskunn, and I loved the description of the Academy. The teasing of the other race in Albion, the Unhieru, was most welcome and I would like to read more about them.
The Wolf also shows all aspects of warfare, from the logistics to the political, to the emotional. There are many brilliant soliloquies from both characters and the author about war and battle and what it means. I found the account of Reynar the Tall’s bravery enthralling, being a warrior who fought to preserve his fellows not to kill his opponents. The effects of defeat on the vanquished are shown from the point of view of the Sutherners, whose leader Bellamus is forced to execute two soldiers for stealing food from a town they visit. The challenges of leadership are shown here and throughout Roper’s character arc. At one point Roper even questions if he is the right man to lead the Anakim after they are struck by plague. Roper and Uvoren also provide a meditation on masculinity; Roper while inexperienced is unfazed by the challenges he faces and genuinely wants to do what’s best for his country; Uvoren thinks only about himself and how he can amass more power and influence. The lines between good and evil become blurred when Roper plays political games to reduce Uvoren’s power.
This is an excellent depiction of how easily power can corrupt and the price it carries, which we see at the very end of the book. My one criticism is the ending of the final battle, the tide of which was turned by what seemed like a deus ex machina on the part of the author. I felt this took away from Roper’s courage and generalship which had been built up throughout the novel. Apart from this, the story was excellent, the characters were engaging and the world created was haunting and beautiful.
Overall, a great debut that deserves to do well.