Book Review: "The Wolf" by Leo Carew
Beyond the Black River, among the forests and mountains of the north, lives an ancient race of people. Their lives are measured in centuries, not decades; they revel in wilderness and resilience, and they scorn wealth and comfort.
By contrast, those in the south live in the moment, their lives more fleeting. They crave wealth and power; their ambition is limitless, and their cunning unmatched.
When the armies of the south flood across the Black river, the fragile peace between the two races is shattered. On a lightning-struck battlefield, the two sides will fight - for their people, for their land, for their very survival.
Engaging characters, interesting plot and a protagonist worth rooting for. Carew’s novel, The Wolf follows the story of recently crowned Black Lord Roper following his father’s death in battle. Roper ascends to his throne and quickly finds he is under siege from within his own court while in the midst of a war with enemies to the south. This was a book on my reading list that wasn’t recommended to me and instead was a raw pickup at my local bookstore. I was pleasantly surprised by the contents but wouldn’t go as far to say the novel is a perfect read.
The Wolf boasts a couple of interesting problems that one is not necessarily a bad one to have. Where many fantasy novels will suffer from moments that are too dialogue heavy, Carew’s novel is description heavy. Several times in the book I felt disconnected from the content while learning facts, though interesting, about the Anakim race. In fairness to Carew, every fact and every bit of information were referenced and served a purpose, but these moments resulted in my being less motivated to remain glue to the page. Description throughout the book is excellent otherwise. I always had a very clear picture of the characters, the environment, the bloody battles, everything.
The other problem I found was that Carew’s novel almost splits itself in two when it comes to which parts are strong and which are less so. The battles and tense moments of Roper confronting his enemies, on and off the battlefield, were the moments that made me fly through the chapters. The politicking and strategizing to outdo Roper’s enemies were where the book suffered. Both elements are very necessary in any book that focuses on conspiracy and war but somehow the pacing slowed. Roper’s struggle is what works at the beginning of the book. The reader is emotionally invested in Roper’s plight, not just because he’s thrust into a position of leadership with no allies but because we have an intellectual among brutes. It’s exciting to watch Roper struggle to form his allies under the pressure of his own court turning against him and building the foundation of his rule as he goes.
Tragically, once Roper’s struggle is established and “the hill he has to climb” is laid out for the reader, the pace slows. This section is in the middle of the book and where the problem hits hardest. Roper’s character development could be the culprit behind why this is. I remember questioning political and moral decisions our protagonist made with confidence and ambition I had yet to witness him demonstrate. All characters in a story will experience growth but the problem lies in the audience not being there to witness it. This is probably made worse by the amount of skimming I did in this part of the book as well. Description, as stated earlier, is excellent but poorly timed where and excessive dialogue eclipse the plot’s advancement. Once past this section, however, the book offers an incredible finale that earned my adoration. Clearly war scenes and faster pacing is Carew’s strength in storytelling as much as his description of the world he’s created. The only problem is there are sections of his novel that work against him.
The Wolf is a book bursting with potential with minor problems at best. From its heart-thumping war scenes to its engaging cast of characters, it’s a developing series worth considering.