Jim C. Hines (jimhines) wrote,
Jim C. Hines

Way of the Wolf, by E. E. Knight

I picked up Way of the Wolf [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] by E. E. Knight (eeknight) while I was at WindyCon last month. This book has the distinction of being the first in a long time to work its way into my dreams. Given the subject matter, they weren't fun dreams. Thanks a lot, Knight!

Way of the Wolf is subtitled "Book One of The Vampire Earth", and comes with a nice little tag phrase. Welcome to the year 2065. Earth is under new management.

"Vampire Earth" is potentially a little misleading. Earth has been conquered by the alien Kurians, who feed on our life essences. In order to feed, they created the Reapers: nightmare creatures who tear open our throats and insert long, serpentine tongues directly into our hearts to feed on our blood while transmitting our vital essence back to their Kurian masters. In other words, if you're expecting traditional vampires and wooden stakes and garlic and quipping blonde teenagers, you're reading the wrong book.

In the humans' corner, we have the Lifeweavers, kin to the Kurians. The Lifeweavers don't fight directly, but they use their powers to change human warriors, to make them better, stronger, faster. These changed humans fall into three categories: Cats (scouts and loners), Bears (bad-ass warriors) and Wolves (the guerilla fighters). This first book introduces us to the world of 2065 through the eyes of the young wolf David Valentine.

The first half of the book is completely episodic. Each chapter is a chapter of Valentine's life, showing us his past, his training, and his missions as a Wolf. There's plenty of tension and a lot of action, but little in the way of overall plot tying it all together. That changes in the second half, when Valentine and one of his men take refuge on a human farm. Here we see more of the day-to-day life of normal humans under Kurian rule. Valentine falls in love, and then has to save his protectors from both Reapers and Quislings (human traitors who have chosen to serve the Kurians).

The early chapters accomplish what they set out to do. Each one adds to the reader's understanding of this world, and the self-contained stories of Valentine's life certainly keep you turning the pages. But I started to wonder where this was going, and whether there was an actual destination for the book, or if this was intended simply to show us this conquered world. The second half helped, but this is still a book where the worldbuilding comes first. Book two, Choice of the Cat [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], looks like it brings more balance, giving Valentine a clearer mission. (One which picks up on hints from the first book which are never fully explored.)

Knight has created a dark world, and he doesn't flinch from some of the nastiness that comes with it. I did enjoy the book, despite the dreams of that first night. But I couldn't help feeling like I was missing the larger story, that Valentine's POV limited me to the trees when I wanted to see more forest. I suspect I'll be picking up book two to see where the story goes from here.

So, anyone else read this one? What did you think of it?
Tags: review

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