Rising fantasy stars Monette (Mélusine) and Bear (Whiskey & Water) subvert the telepathic animal companion subgenre so thoroughly that it may never be the same. The inhabitants of a cold and perilous world grounded in Norse/Germanic mythology depend upon the brutally violent wolfcarls, men who bond telepathicallywith huge fighting trellwolves, to protect them from monstrous trolls and wyverns from further north. When the northern threat suddenly intensifies, Isolfr, a young wolfcarl, and his wolf-sister, Viradechtis, a Queen wolf destined to rule her own pack, are thrust into key roles in their civilization’s desperate fight to survive.
Looking at the amazon synopsis of A Companion to Wolves, I can pretty much admit that the primary reason for me to pick up this book was my recently-found love and adoration for Sarah Monette’s work. I didn’t really have too high expectations when I started to read this book, because I’m personally not a great fan of collaborations and then was waiting for the next Labyrinthine book, pretty sure that this one wouldn’t be as heavy on the LGBT side as Monette’s other works.
Well, damn. I was wrong.
And luckily so. In retrospect I think that A Companion to Wolves has been one of the best books I’ve read this year and has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. With a little more than 300 pages this is a short, but plot- and character-packed standalone (though I really wouldn’t mind a sequel in general 😉 ) that pretty much stands our common animal-companion fantasy perception on its head.
The outcome of what Elizabeth Bear says on her website was originally planned as a satirical novella is a harsh and beautiful book about loyalty and honor and for everyone who knows Sarah Monette’s Labyrinthine books certainly will recognize the intricacy with which the authors deal with sexuality and character relationships.
I daresay A Companion to Wolves probably isn’t for everyone as it’s very explicit in terms of content and generally brings up some issues that will probably put off anyone who expects this book to be a light, entertaining read. It definitely raises some questions about issues more traditional fantasy just doesn’t deal with and that is exactly what makes this book so intriguing along with both authors’ talent in creating a fast-paced plot propelled by the compelling relationships of its characters – human and nonhuman alike.
Even though the book is definitely a standalone, whether Bear and Monette plan to work on a sequel remains to be seen. I’ll keep my eyes open, because the sad thing about short books like A Companion to Wolves is that they’re over much too soon and leave you wanting for more 😉