The Wolf Age by James Enge
Review by Jasper de Joode
Wuruyaaria: city of werewolves, whose raiders range over the dying northlands, capturing human beings for slaves or meat. Wuruyaaria: where a lone immortal maker wages a secret war against the Strange Gods of the Coranians. Wuruyaaria: a democracy where some are more equal than others, and a faction of outcast werewolves is determined to change the balance of power in a long, bloody election year. Their plans are laid; the challenges known; the risks accepted. But all schemes will shatter in the clash between two threats few had foreseen and none had fully understood: a monster from the north on a mission to poison the world, and a stranger from the south named Morlock Ambrosius.
The Wolf Age is the third book in the Morlock Ambrosius series written by James Enge. When I first encountered this book I thought it was a stand-alone book. However, even though The Wolf Age is part of series featuring Morlock Ambrosius I could easily read this book and understand it clearly although I might not have gotten the full dark background of Morlock. It felt like The Wolf Age does not narrowly focus on Morlock per se but that he is woven into the storyline, and this combined with the details of the werewolves produces an illustrious story.
What first comes to notice are the werewolves. The Wolf Age is not an urban fantasy themed book but sword and sorcery. I was glad that the usage of the werewolf theme and everything surrounding it was totally off what is seen in urban fantasy books featuring werewolves. In the city of Wuruyaaria, which is completely ruled by werewolves, there is a whole society built around them. Having different “packs”, similar to clans, and within the packs there is a hierarchical order that is quite extensively built. I was pleased with this visualization of the whole werewolf theme and not showing them only as viscous beasts that rip and roar at night-time but having a sophisticated system when they are wearing their “day skins”.
As far as the characters go I was pleased with some but for others there could have been a stronger voice and motivation behind their actions. In the beginning of The Wolf Age you have a prologue that features the Strange Gods. They are known by names like Death, Justice, Mercy, War, and having glimpsed from the synopsis that there is a secret war against the Strange Gods, and reading the prologue I was hooked. Who doesn’t like a clash between the mortal and immortal? But it felt that it soon went to the background of the storyline, although you get a glimpse of the Strange Gods every now and then you do not get to meet up with the immortal maker. Ambrosius is a maker, but far from immortal. What would have done it for me was after the introduction of the Strange Gods that you would get to meet the other maker from his perspective, fully into his scheming. I have to admit then once the maker was introduced there was a nice but dark and sinister twist to the storyline. Werewolves are not the only inhabitants…
Then there is Morlock. This being my first introduction with him left me still with some questions of what he truly is. As you perceive him in The Wolf Age he is a wizard, having a power called “Sight”. Added to this he is quite smart and crafty, he is a maker, although if makers can do more than just build things I do not know but if there is more I’m eager to find out. Soon after his introduction he is taken prisoner by werewolves, this after a flashy action scene with his magical sword “Tyrfing”. From this point the introduction into the society of the werewolves starts and he gets a werewolf friend Rokhlenu. After meeting up the storyline switches from paragraphs featuring Morlock and werewolves or the werewolves solely. In this changing of characters there is nice pacing overall creating interesting chapter endings. All in all the characters that you meet, be they werewolf or human are spot on and counting this on top of the world that is being unfolded while you read make this part well-rounded
On top of the dark and sinister setting that is being laid down after the introduction of werewolf and their ways of doing certain things, Morlock actually has a few casual scenes in where he enlightens the mood by throwing in some witty and funny jokes. This was a nice addition and was done just right, having brought more witty comments into the storyline would have destroyed the general dark setting that rules The Wolf Age.
The Wolf Age is a great story that incorporates werewolves in a different way, using the werewolves in a sword and sorcery setting. Even going as far back as truly trying to use the mythology in showing how they are. The combination of flashy action scene featuring claws, swords and magic alike, intertwined with the created society of werewolves make this book a pleasure.
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