Normally, when I review books, I try to stay in the role of a reader, but this review of Wolfeater on the blog will have to touch on my life as a writer as well. I’ll edit it down for Goodreads and Bookbub, but I think the complete story is one worth telling.
Wolfeater is one of those books that came out of left field and caught me completely by surprise. I picked it up, mostly on a whim thanks to a review from one of the book blogging sites that I follow. I was interested in some of the pre-agricultural world building aspects of the story and was also interested in reading a book that had less to do with epic fantasy and more with sword and sorcery.
I'm glad that I did, both as a reader (it’s a fantastic book), but also as a writer. Let’s look at the reading aspect first.
I had an enormous amount of fun reading Wolfeater. Instead of a sprawling epic, we’re treated to a tightly focused, fast-paced adventure. Instead of thousands of characters spanning generations or multiple countries, we have a small cast of characters on a single perilous journey. Plot-wise, it’s one of the simplest stories I’ve read in a long time, and I found that simplicity both refreshing and rewarding.
Yes, the world-building is excellent, and yes, the magic is subtle and awesome. But it never loses focus on that core story. There’s no political maneuvering, no world-ending stakes (although world-changing, definitely). That simplicity allows us to focus more on the characters, who are all a joy to spend time with.
In short, this is sword and sorcery done well.
I loved the setting here, too. It’s a (mostly?) pre-agricultural society, driven by tribes who are often fighting with one another. It actually reminds me of a fantasy-horror novella I read last year that I really loved, Red in Tooth and Claw.
On top of all of this, Wolfeater embraces some of my favorite tropes. Characters are driven by a sense of honor and proper behavior. There are many examples of found family relationships. And the magic of this world is weaved subtly into the story, always present but never overwhelming.
In short, as a reader, I loved this book and will definitely be reading more.
But I can’t help but look at this from a writer’s perspective, too.
Ever since the publication of Nightblade, most of my work has fallen pretty squarely in the epic fantasy camp. What I’ve noticed, though, is that as of late I’ve found myself naturally drawn to stories that are smaller in scope. Last Sword in the West has grown more epic over five volumes, but I specifically wrote the original to be small. One POV, one small town, no world-ending stakes.
Wolfeater has confirmed that sword and sorcery is where my heart currently lies. I’m starting a new standalone book later this week that I’ll be talking about soon, but it also leans hard into the sword and sorcery genre. After finishing that, I’ll be finishing Last Sword, which will finish all my open series.
After that, I don’t know what I’ll write.
But thanks to Wolfeater, I suspect it’ll be something in sword and sorcery.