Infused with myth and magic and sporting an intelligent and involving tale.
MD Lachlan’s Wolfsangel is a story about a lot of things. It’s a story about mythology, love, the power of belief and the path to maturity. Above all these however, it is a story of transformation, of humanity’s link to nature and our inability to separate ourselves from it – no matter how hard we try.
Lachlan’s Nordic adventure is the perfect myth. Supported by strong folkloric foundations, it tells a story that is both superbly magical and yet grounded in the harsh truths of historic reality. The premise is that Authun, king of the Northern Vikings, was cursed by the god Odin to sire only female children, for Odin feared that Authun would sire a son mightier than himself. But Authun was determined to have his heir, and so took his warriors to a village where he was told he would find a child of his lineage to take as a son. But when he arrives, it is not one child he finds, but two.
What unfurls is the tale of two sons, Vali, the child Authun takes back to his town as his heir, and Feilig, the abandoned son Authun leaves with the witches and who is later given over to the wolfmen to be raised in the wild.
Through various chains of events instigated by love for a girl, Adisla, the brothers cross paths and embark on radical journeys of their own. Prince Vali suffers here as a modern man in a dated world. His problems are symptomatic of his displacement in a community to which he has never truly belonged: his inability to adopt the warrior mentality and his desire for a woman below his stature. His refusal to adopt the ways of his people hint at more than just his foreign roots, but point towards his ultimate rejection of humanity and his eventual transformation into animal form. Both his alienation from his human surroundings and his desperation to save Adisla see him convert from an intelligent leader to a wild beast, becoming nocturnal, increasingly sick, and lapsing into periods of uninhibited bloodlust.
Feilig, a primitive and lonesome creature caught somewhere between a wolf and a man becomes increasingly more humane in his desire to take Adisla for himself, gradually rejecting his lupine ways and becoming more of the human he was born as than the wolf he was raised.
The metamorphosis of the brothers is slow, excruciating and by far one of the most fascinating and enjoyable aspects of the novel. Watching their lives develop in ways beyond their understanding and ability to control, which are punctuated by death, pain and regret, makes for a sorrowful but addictive reading experience.
Lachlan is spectacular in his depiction of the boys’ physical and psychological transformations into and away from humanity. The line between man and beast becomes quickly blurred and the author’s graphic and bloodthirsty prose leaves no doubt as to the animalistic nature inherent in both wolf and man. Such moments often springs out of nowhere, lending the author a style that mirrors the ruthless and unpredictable shifts of his animalistic protagonists.
The way in which the fantastical aspects of the tale (the dark practices of the witches in the Troll Wall and the interference from the god Loki) blend with the more brutal aspects (the raids on the villages and the subsequent carnage they wreak) provides the book with multiple layers of prose. Though the magical elements add a beautifully mythical layer to the tale, they initially feel at odds with the straight-forward nature of Prince Vali’s plight. As the tale progresses however, the more integral the magic becomes, shrouding the primary plotline with an aura that adds not only an intense atmosphere, but contributes directly to the plight of the protagonist.
The style of this Norse set novel is a welcome change of pace from the much of today’s fantasy, offering something unusual in its combination of historic, mythical and transformative prose. However, depicting such a story risks a number of problems, the most apparent of which here is the environment in which it is set. Quite rightly, Lachlan keeps strictly within the world he has created, ensuring his landscapes are stark and barren, allowing not even the briefest spells of warmth or comfort. It’s a cold, harsh world to immerse yourself in which at times takes some considerable perseverance to remain involved in.
Also at times the narrative can feel slightly confused with the witches’ incarnations, the god Loki and the various wolf manifestations appearing and disappearing at the drop of a hat.
Infused with myth and magic and sporting an intelligent and involving tale that offers so much more than a lot of books today, Wolfsangel is a treat to read and very quickly sets itself up as a story you could see the Vikings telling their children in the days of old.
Review by Alice Wybrew
8.1/10 from 1 reviews
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