A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{October 22, 2011}   The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

Plot: Far in the north live great warriors bonded to huge wolves known as trellwolves. Together they fight to protect men from the invading trolls. But with the trolls finally defeated, they seemed to have lost their purpose… until a new threat arrives on their shores. The Rheans are enemies of a different sort, not raiders like the vikings but conquerors. Isolfr and his two wolfjarls, Skjaldwul and Vethulf must convince the wolfless men of the threat before it is too late.

When I read the first volume in this series, A Companion to Wolves, I was blown away. It was a bit of a joke: Monette and Bear took the idea of magical bonds with wolves to its furthest extreme and added some gay romance into the mix. But they wrote it with such skill and with so much adventure and so many fascinating characters (both men and wolves) that Tor asked for two more books in the series. The Tempering of Men is the first of these two books and it exceded all my expectations.

The first book was entirely from Isolfr point of view and took almost entirely place in the frozen north. The second book widdens its scope to explore more of the world from the wolfheall and the norse world they serve to the Roman-like invaders that threaten their shores. Even more interesting are the glimpses we get into the minds of the other members of the wolfheall, men very different from Isolfr though they are all close to him, and the book is the richer for it.  The danger is constant, coming from all sides, and the action scenes are intense. What has been a very masculine series also sees the introduction of a few very interesting female characters including Fargrimr who has become sworn-son and heir to a father who lost his only son to the wolfheall and Otter, a prisonner of and translator for the Rheans who impresses Skjaldwul with her intelligence and courage. I hope to see more of them in the future. Meanwhile the budding romance between Skjaldwul and Vethulf would be worth reading on its own; it is both touching and sexy.

Unlike the first book, this one ends on a cliffhanger with the Rheans poised to attack and victory far from assured. I cannot wait for An Apprentice to Elves but I fear it will still be a very long time.

Challenges: GLBT Challenge (12)


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