(2011) M. D. Lachlan, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, 448pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08963-1
This is the second in Lachlan’s 'Wolfsangel' series, but do not expect a straight sequel to the first book. Instead, the author has moved the action on by a hundred years and we are now in a besieged Paris in the years 885 and 886, with the Vikings led by King Sigfrid knocking at the door, or rather the walls of the city all because they want the Count Eudes’ sister, the Lady Aelis. What is the Count to do? Sacrifice his sister to save the city? Dilemma city Arizona, as they say, especially as the Count has ambitions on his own, and he is caught between a rock and a hard place, unless his sister can be persuaded to do the honourable thing and sacrifice herself for the good of her people, but to the mind of the blind and crippled priest, Jehan (who is also regarded as a living saint) the noblewoman should not be handed over as he suspects the Vikings want her as a sacrifice to their gods, which might lead to damnation for all of them. So he also face a dilemma as he has been charged with the task of convincing her to do the good thing and hand herself over for the good of her people. However, there are other Vikings interested in the lady, and Prince Helgi sends the wolfman known as Sindre to Paris to protect her, which is a smart move as he arrives in time to save her from the attentions of Hugin, a Shaman and his band of berserkers. Soon, Aelis has managed to escape the city with Sindre’s help and the plot goes large with a chase across Europe, from France all the way to what would be modern-day Russia with Hugin his berserkers dogging, or maybe that should be wolfing their footprints, or pawprints – ouch!
While packed with interesting characters, the most interesting is probably the crippled and blind, Jehen who due to the force-feeding of human flesh becomes the wolf, 'Fenrir', of the title. Also interesting is the developing character of Aelis who starts to learn to use the magical power of the Viking runes and gradually becomes a powerful witch in her own right.
Viking magic and Viking gods are crucial to this novel because the game started in the first book between Odin and Loki and the wolf, Fenrir, has began again with the reincarnation of the mortal souls in new bodies. While that over-arching thread continues, it is possible to read Fenrir as a stand-alone title, and not be too confused by references to past events, but I would recommend new readers start with book one for the sake of completeness and not to deprive themselves of another great read.
Great writing, pacey, action-packed, with a few plot-driving coincidences in places, but what the hey? This is a stirring epic of a novel combining history, mythology, love, adventure, horror, and not a little humour, adding up to a more than enjoyable ride towards the next book in the series. Round Three, anyone, in the continuing battle of the Gods?
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