Monday, May 21, 2012

Wolfsong by Kodilynn Calhoun

Title: Wolfsong
Author: Kodilynn Calhoun
Length: 4230 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot

Kia thinks of himself as a rather ordinary teenage boy, going to school and trying to work up the courage to talk to the beautiful Ariiantha. But when he is attacked by a wolf in the street, and the stray dog he has befriended turns into Arii before his eyes, he learns that he has a stranger legacy than he ever could have imagined. His father is a werewolf from an alternate world where he rules the Altehrei pack. But now that their leader has disappeared, the wolves want Kia, as his only son, to come rule them. Kia doesn’t want to leave his friends and family, but if he doesn’t, he may be condemning the Altehrei to a horrible fate.

The Good

Once I got past the first quarter of the book or so, which I will tell you all about in the next section, Wolfsong was pretty good. The Altehrei wolves live in an alternate reality that I pretty much picture as a full-time Rennaissance Fair. It was an original environment, and I wanted to know more about the structure of wolf society and the different roles that people played. For this book we mostly focused on Kia learning how to defend himself and kill things when necessary, but if there are future books in the series, I’d be interested to see more about the world.

I am not a huge fan of werewolf books in general, and one of the main reasons for this is that it’s really hard to make werewolves not sexist. But I would say that Wolfsong succeeds in doing so. Sure, the Altehrei judge people based on absurd things like eye color, but women seem to be able to do all the same things as men. And the relationship between wolf mates seems to be one of equals.

The Bad

Wolfsong was not a bad book, once you got past a certain point. But the beginning was so full of problematic plot elements and bad dialogue that I probably would have put it down if I wasn’t reading it to review it. And one of the difficulties with a book that starts off poorly is that you’re more likely to interpret neutral stimuli with a negative bias.

Arii tells Kia that the Altehrei wolf pack needs a strong leader, and she needs Kia to come be that leader. Kia, well aware that he has about as much leadership ability as an ant who got lost on his way back to the anthill, refuses to leave his friends and family. So Arii sticks around in human world anyway, not to try to convince Kia to change his mind, but apparently just to be his girlfriend. (In the interests of fairness, I must point out that there is eventually an explanation that makes Arii’s actions make more sense. But at the time, there is no apparent reason for her to behave in this manner, so it comes off as ridiculous.)

The book continues to be about Kia’s transformation into the strong leader that the Altehrei need, but I’m not entirely sure I believe it. I mean, the pack has basically decided that his word is law just because he has gold eyes. So when he starts forcing his democratic human values – like not basing class on eye color and hanging out with the lowest ranked members of the pack – and refuses to do wolfy things like hunting, I expect the wolves to be like, “Dude, you suck as a werewolf leader.” But they just go along with it all, which kind of makes me lose respect for them as a culture.

I also have no idea how many werewolves there are in the Altehrei. Sometimes it seems like it’s easy for Kia to know everyone’s name, and sometimes it seems like there’s a whole large town of them. Or maybe he’s just really good at names and faces.

The Romance

I don’t really have too much to say about the romance in Wolfsong, because it was pretty straightforward. The book opens with Kia admiring Arii, and their romance progresses from there. Sure, there are a few complications. He’s the king’s son, and she’s at the bottom of the wolf hierarchy, which doesn’t bother Kia, but it causes some backlash for their relationship. And they have a couple of misunderstandings, and one of their motives is not entirely pure, but for the most part they’re pretty happy. Sometimes I would even describe it as sickly sweet.

Will I read more?

I’m not sure if this is a standalone novel or if there will be more in the series. I’m not necessarily opposed to reading more about the world. I think this is a case where I would read the author’s work again if she asked me, but I probably won’t seek it out on my own unless the story sounds really appealing.

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