Verdict: Filled with details that make for a sincerely rendered world, peopled with characters who breathe, STORM WOLF is a thoughtfully constructed fantasy tale filled with emotion and action.
Wearing the wolf skin he inherited from his grandfather, Alexei fights the storms that threaten his town’s livelihood . . . until he loses control of the wolf within.
The storms that plague Alexei’s home in rural 1880s Estonia and threaten to ruin the villagers’ crops are caused by monsters within the clouds. These monsters are traditionally fought by a village werewolf, a role taken on by Alexei’s grandfather until he is too old to continue, at which point the duty passes to Alexei. His grandfather warns him to become the wolf only when absolutely necessary and never to use the wolf skin for personal gain, but this proves harder than Alexei anticipated—and has devastating consequences. Fleeing from the results of his loss of control, Alexei goes on a journey through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Bohemia, seeking redemption.
The structure of this book is both a weakness and a strength. At times, figuring out where exactly the story is going can be a challenge. The story begins with a full chapter about Alexei’s grandfather before introducing the main character or the main conflict, and the story overall can meander and get a little bogged down. The language can also sometimes become repetitive. That said, the beginning of the book also serves to give us a thorough grounding in the setting, which is impressively fleshed out by Morris, and provide an unusual as well as detailed folkloric background for the tale. Morris has done extensive research about the folklore, customs, daily lives, and language of the people of 19th-century Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and it shows. Morris’s initial premise—that of a man who becomes a werewolf willingly to protect others—also puts a welcome and unusual spin on things.
Alexei is also a highly sympathetic, realistically flawed character who the author is clearly invested in, and this enthusiasm is infectious. Trouble seems to hound Alexei (forgive the pun), both as a result of his inner wolf and some seriously bad luck, and it’s easy to root for him to find peace with himself and the world. Morris also takes care to give us enough information about secondary characters for readers to care about what happens to them, sometimes—perhaps especially—when they are in danger of meeting bad ends.
Filled with details that make for a sincerely rendered world, peopled with characters who breathe; STORM WOLF is a thoughtfully constructed fantasy tale filled with emotion and action.
~Written by Sarah Varnum for IndieReader.