Black Wolves (Black Wolves Trilogy) by Kate Elliott
|Black Wolves (Black Wolves Trilogy) by Kate Elliott|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An epic fantasy that's epic in a good way. In fact it's a brick of a book but feels far too short. Absorbing, thought provoking, action packed, complex yet understandable, political yet entertaining. This is a series of which we're not going to want to miss a moment.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 816||Date: November 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Dannarah has achieved her childhood dream: she's a reeve marshal, one of the army who fly eagles to defend king and kingdom. However Dannarah's dream comes after a nightmare. Lady Dannarah (as she's more properly known) is daughter of King Anjihosh and his son Prince Atani both of whom have been killed. Two decades later the current ruler, her great nephew Jehosh gives Dannarah an ultimatum. She will be promoted to Grand Marshal if she brings him a bodyguard to guide him through dangerous times ahead and not just any bodyguard. He wants Kellas, the captain of the former Black Wolves, the elite royal guard who were disbanded after the regicides. Kellas had walked away from the palace in a fog of shock and self-blame and he may not want to come back
Having met her husband during a sword fight, American author Kate Elliott seemed destined to write fantasy. (She's also got the experience, having written stories since the age of 9 but the sword fight story is a better story!) I must admit that Black Wolves is the first Kate Elliott I've read but what an introduction to the author! It's over 700 pages long and yet feels way too short, finishing much too soon.
The over-riding theme of the novel is politics: national, global, family and gender, presented within a story that doesn't preach. On the contrary, it's wrapped in entertainment, action and people we either plump for or desperately want to shake warmly by the neck. We don't just engage with this story – we live it.
We soon realise that Kate treats her readers as adults and not only from the gore and justifiably earthy language. We start the novel learning about the young Kellas and his life at the palace but we aren't told everything. Kate finds various ways to drip feed snippets, comments and vignettes throughout the novel, revealing what happened to King Anjihosh and his son Atani. Shocks and surprises from their history crop up when we least expect them among life in the present.
That's not all that's clever. We also gradually notice Dannarah isn't the usual feisty female fantasy meme. She's a 3D hero as fully formed and multi-layered as Kellas is, making this a book to satisfy all genders.
Similarly Sarai, a girl tainted by the decisions of her mother and marked by the same sword that killed her mum, would never be allowed to marry. So she takes things into her own hands and in this way we see the other side of Lord Gilas, the man she aims at. She risks the gamut or prejudice as he's not of her people but it's better than the life of a perpetual child that faces unmarried women in her culture. Speaking of Gilas, he's rather interesting, starting off as an aristo oik, offending our sensitivity and ends up earning more than our admiration.
Meanwhile, the now 70 year old Kellas has reached the stage of his life when he may not be at peace with the royal deaths but he wants to be left alone. Will Dannarah encourage him to leave his grandchildren?
In amongst the cultural differences, rollicking action, blood and guts there are the satisfying baddies. In this case demons who leach memories from their victims while forcing these victims to relive them. In a book where all may not be as it seems this is an interesting (as well as effective) weapon. (I'm betting that the demons may also be part of a metaphor for those who enjoy an epic fantasy dissection.)
The greatest joy of Black Wolves is that it's the first in a trilogy so we'll be able to return to those living in and outside the Hundred as the menace grows. This is fantasy story-telling taken to a higher level than the norm so definitely not a book to be missed.
(Thank you so much, Orbit, for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy exemplary epic fantasy, then we also highly recommend Battlemage
You can read more book reviews or buy Black Wolves (Black Wolves Trilogy) by Kate Elliott at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Black Wolves (Black Wolves Trilogy) by Kate Elliott at Amazon.com.
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