Tour’s Books Blog

August 1, 2009

Book Review: The Wolf by Jean Johnson

The Sons of Destiny series by Jean John got off to a so-so start with The Sword.  I’ve now finished Book 2, The Wolf, and Book 3, The Master is underway.  Here’s how things are moving.

  • Title: The Wolf
  • Author: Jean Johnson
  • Type: Fantasy
  • Genre: Alternate World
  • Sub-genre: Magician/Shifter
  • My Grade: C+ (3.4*)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Where Available:  Any bookstore

The Wolf has a storyline that was pretty much as predictable as the tides, but the pacing, the improved world building and the ending gave the story an edge over The Sword.  It felt like Ms Johnson was starting to get into her own story here and began building a more interesting, complex world for her characters.   We have the fully expected story of Wolver and Alys, his childhood friend in a ‘woman in jeopardy’ sort of trope.  Alys is a ward of her evil uncle (a non-blood uncle to the 8 brothers), the mage who has been sending all of the illegal war-creatures and magical attacks at the castle.

Before Wolf and his brothers were exiled to Nightfall Island, Alys made him a bracelet woven from her own hair.  He has never taken it off and whenever his quick temper threatens, he touches it like a talismen to calm himself.  Wolf has many shifter forms, but the wolf is the one he uses most often.  Unbeknownest to him and his other brothers, his youngest brother Morganan has used is magical skills to stay in touch with Alys as she grew up under the abusive guardianship of her uncle Broger.  All that kept her from sexual abuse is the bride price her could get for being a virgin.  Each time he threatened to sell her, she’s put him off by convincing him there was more money or power to be had if he waited, but no more.  He’s sending her to her new husband, an elderly and unpleasant man.  But with Morg’s help, she’s spent theses years devising an escape plan which she puts into effect while on the road to her would be groom.  Here we learn about Broger’s seething lust for power, his links to dark magic, the murders he’s committed to reach the position where the death of the brothers would bring him the estate and titles of Corvis and eventual kingship.

Alys escapes as planned and makes it to the port city she needs to reach Nightfall when her other uncle comes down the street and she must evade him.  She ducks into a ‘wenching tavern’ – a bar/brothel combination.  In addition to hiding, she manages to observe one of the working women with a man and then pays her for information on pleasing a man.  (I tell you, these whores with hearts of gold are a huge boon to curious virgins in jeopardy in “Romancelandia.”)

Alys is herself a shifter of limited ability, but she’s spent years perfecting the shapes she needs, the wardog to escape her uncle’s men now the otter to swin to the island where she’s found on the beach by Wolf.  He gets her back to the castle by changing into a horse and riding bareback on him gives Alys her first orgasm – and one would assume.  These shifters do have an advantage!  Alys vacillates between strength and self-effacing docility.  Part of this could be the result of her abusive uncle, but much of it is presented as inherent character traits.  Brave only when she must be.  But she and Morganan have secrets that have kept from the brothers.  Morg because he feels he must, it is his duty to them to help them set the prophesy in motion and keep it on track.  Fulfilling the prophecy is important to more than the brothers and their prophesy is intertwined with other prophesies.  Kelly’s proclaiming herself ‘Queen of Nightfall’, a ploy for dealing with the men from the other side of the world who sought to expand their empire in The Sword, takes on far more significance than it initially seemed to have.

The brothers get more depth here, but Saber, the eldest, and his wife Kelly, remain the second strongest characters here.  There is far more going on in The Wolf than there was in The Sword.  Good thing too because I could not work up any real empathy for Alys who was annoying with her ‘frightened child’ routine.  Wolf, like Saber, seems too hero-by-the-numbers to be a unique character.  Kelly is starting to really grate on my last nerve in this book and might well end up disliking her intensely.  TheWolver-Alys romance has a ‘big mis’ that feels more like a ‘little mis’ and there’s no real friction between the hero and heroine,  and the attraction surprisingly blah, even with a lot more sex than book 1.  The whole meglomanical evil uncle was so over the top it gave the book the feel of a bad melodrama.  It had its strengths, mostly the unraveling of some associated story arcs, the expansion of ‘the world’ beyond Nightfall Island, and the development of the other brothers as individual characters.  The ‘world’  in The Wolf remains unexciting and ordinary, but that starts changing in the next book,  The Master, where I finally have a heroine I can like.

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