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Writer Gal

April 2017

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Writer Gal

Werewolves & Shadowstalkers & Muses. Ad Infinitum. Ad Nauseam.

I finished jamesenge's The Wolf Age yesterday morning, after reading it as late into the night as I could without deranging my eyesight.

I wanted to glow all over this here blog right after the last page, but I was still processing, and THEN I remembered I already did a whole bunch of incandescing over the Enge Phenomena before I had even finished the first third of the book, and then I thought, WHY BEAT A DEAD HORSE NAMED VELOX? So I didn't post anything here yesterday.

I posted a review on Amazon instead.

I admit, I was lonely. No one else I know has read the book. I went to Amazon for the company of strangers. Just to read other reviews. There were two, both by females (or so, at least, it seemed; I ought not to assume), which was exactly what I wanted.

They each said a few things I'd been thinking, too, which means I didn't have to!



(Isn't this picture cool? It's Morlock Ambrosius as depicted by artist Chuck Lukacs.)

I will replicate my review here (pasted below and centered) for your (dubious) reading enjoyment, and also because I think the book's just great, and I really can't say that enough, or in too many places, or too loudly.

Even as I say that, I wonder who of you out there would like The Wolf Age?

Who among you likes high body count, sorcery, swords, strange gods, banter, snark, romance, revenge, werewolves, politics, juggernaut plots, strong characters -- females as well as males -- intricate exploration into languages and cultures that never ever existed on this side of the sea of worlds, and heroes so deeply flawed you'd as lief kill 'em as kiss 'em sometimes, but also you wouldn't mind kissing 'em too, sometimes, even if they ARE fictional.

I have no idea if you like this sort of thing.
What do YOU like in a book?
Everything I like was right there.

There is no accounting for taste! It's a mystery to me. Why Enge over others? Who can say? I myself don't seek out Sword & Sorcery as a matter of course. Howard A. Jones over at Black Gate Magazine found out recently how appallingly ignorant I am of S&S source material and set about trying find Robert E. Howard duplicates on his bookshelf to remedy the situation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am about to become better acquainted with Bran Mak Morn.

It occurred to me the other day (yesterday, I think it was) while I was doing dishes, that tastes vary so wildly -- likes, preferences, triggers, landmines, soulmines, just what INTERESTS one -- that it is quite difficult to recommend anyone anything unless you know them really well and they're already in a good mood.

I tried to pinpoint the reason I liked Enge so much.

How do I explain the Morlock stories (and probably whatever else he decides to write outside of Laent: I have faith, man) to other people in such a way that they would put all personal preferences aside and just AGREE WITH ME on ALL counts and buy his books sight unseen?

Then I realized there was just no way I could do this. Not really. It's not realistic.

The truth is, I don't know if you'll like The Wolf Age.

The truth is, I loved it.

It's not like anything else, but I read it as rapidly as I devoured Bujold's Vorkosigan saga. It's not like Pratchett or Zelazny either, but people who like those authors may also like Enge. Maybe.

It was not the six-book, brain-crushing, horizon-expanding, COAL-ON-TONGUE, soul-firing experience of Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond of Crawford Chronicles, but if Enge wrote three more Morlock books moving in the same inexorable and inevitable direction of his doom, it WOULD be.

It made me laugh. Out loud.

It made me say lines of dialogue, out loud. Just to have them sit there on my tongue. To try to pronounce what seems to be an unpronounceable name and then realize why the word is shaped that way.

Because it sounds the way a wolf would say it. Like the song goes: "I think I know why the dog howls at the moon."

It made me have to stop, and shake my head just to see if there was anything left of my mind after it had EXPLODED from some of the prose.

It's smart writing, yes, but it's also wise. And that's what kills me.

It made me stare out windows for long periods of time, watching clouds, thinking of nothing at all, and not very coherently.

Also, he can write fight scenes.

Do you know how hard it is to write an un-boring fight scene?

More than un-boring. A truly GAH! WHO DO I LOVE IS GOING TO DIE IN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES fight scene? Again and again. Body count ever mounting, without making you numb to it, without making you care any less, only care more, until sadness becomes tragedy, until tragedy becomes catharsis, until reality worms its ugly war-battered maw into my nice fantasy book and everyone shakes hands and sits down for tea in the Meta Cafe?

Jeez.

Stepping back.

You know, pattytempleton warned me about this the other night, when we were doing laundry over at the mat on Milwaukee Avenue.

She squinted a grin at me and said that if I started talking about this book, I would start glowing all over the damned place. She made glowy motions with her fingers. You know, the universal wiggly sign for: PUT ON YOUR DANG SUNGLASSES!

She said, in fact, that my Amazon review was nice because it obviously conveyed that I liked the book without... so obviously flailing.

Amazon = SUCCESS! Am mature adult! Discerning reader! Literary critic extraordinaire!

But I just needed to flail here, I guess.

I don't really want to reproduce the plot for all y'all. It's not so much that I'm afraid of spoilers, but Amazon has a neatly packaged little professional plot lick already. Not only that, but the other two reader reviews give full overviews as well. And anyway, why should I labor to recreate in a paragraph what Enge does so well in something-hundred pages?



Re: spoilers. You know, I don't mind them myself? As a reader, I like to know a whole helluva lot about what I'm getting into before I get into it. I like oral tellings, I like blurbs, I like teasers. I like to KNOW, because otherwise, I just don't care.

In this world where EVERYONE wants you to care about EVERYTHING, I'm mostly shut down most of the time, regarding my hectic environment through sleepy eyes, keeping only wee chinks of me wide awake and open and fascinated, and even these chinks are often only searching for things I already know I'll like.

Which is a pretty unremarkable way to live. I get that. I get that I'm not adventurous. I try to be open, but this century is pretty overwhelming and I'm not always up to being NERVES TO THE WIND.

But right now I'm at home. It's just past midnight. I don't mind spilling out and over here. The later it gets the more I babble. The champagne of midnight, of moonlight through my window.

I had a great weekend, in which I did very little outside my own Aerie.

I put together my first draft of the poetry collection and sent it out to be beta-read. I got Bek to agree to illustrate it "but not until after Yule," as she warned, very politely.

I stopped revising Miscellaneous Stones: Assassin, because I was miserable, because Howard at Black Gate had given me deep and insightful edits for over half of my novel Shadowstalkers and then told me to GO TO IT, and I panicked and doubted and sunk way down.

Maybe it was the weather, or the falling back an hour. I don't know what makes me take that plunge. It's stupid of me, it never lasts long, and anyway it's over. I've made my decision. I'm three chapters deep into Shadowstalkers revisions, and I hope to be done by November's end. And so I will be if I keep my head down and do nothing. Which, what with my somewhat more crammed schedule in the next few weeks, is iffy. But we do our best to serve our Muse, whoever she may be.

Then, tonight, I went to review Red Orchid Theatre's The Iliad for Centerstage Chicago. I met a friend there, we watched it, and it was amazing. I will post a link to my review once I have written it, which should be within three days.

And speaking of Muses...

James Enge's The Wolf Age can be found on Amazon.com.

Here is the review I wrote there. This is me being restrained. Are you not entertained?


***

"The Wolf Age" has something for all kinds of fantasy readers. Battle scene after battle scene spurs the book along until it's lathered and bleeding. Intervals among the Strange Gods will please Roger Zelazny (or, in certain cases, Terry Pratchett) fans.

From prison to political arena, bonds of brotherhood are forged, tempered with each conflict. Readers will love to hate the enemy and love the hero - or even to love the enemy and hate the hero, depending on who's winning at the time, thus entering into full complicity with an entire werewolf society.

The female characters, who (as an earlier reviewer said) don't show up for a good third of the book and then do so under terrifically violent circumstances, are soon duking it out with the best of the boys and often winning. One of them has cause to exclaim in the middle of a battle, "No banter! I hate banter!" which is an example of the kind of banter so cleverly and mordantly sewn throughout the book.

The dialogue is sometimes highly poetic and sometimes clipped as close as a crow's caw, but it is at all times delightful. The language of werewolves, the system of naming especially, is dense and does require attention, but its reward is rhythm and consistency and rightness. The language matches the subtlety and intricacy of the werewolf society, its rituals and politics and sorceries and wars.

World-building set aside (it is not lightly set aside), it is of course the characters that make the book, and chief among these is Morlock Ambrosius, Maker. If you have read works in which this protagonist has featured before, The Wolf Age will take you deeper into the bedrock of his being, lava rivers and all. If this is your first experience with Morlock, well -- that's your great luck.

The Wolf Age will be immensely satisfying for many re-readings to come.


Comments

For what it's worth, I'm convinced. Don't know when I'll have a change to nip over to the library and read the damn thing, but I _want_ to.
Ooooh. I wonder what you'd think of it. I really do.

Perhaps I will lend you my copy, dog-eared as it is!!!

I think I promised to lend it to Bek first.

Would you rather start with his first one? Wolf Age does stand alone, but it's even better if you've seen the protagonist before.
If you're in doubt, there are sample chapters here. Just in case our tastes don't jive. ;-)

clipped as close as a crow's caw

Well if I were James Enge, I'd be mightily pleased.

I know him only as a name attached to a cool icon made from that last illustration you've got there.

Re: clipped as close as a crow's caw

Sold! And thank you for incandescing. I treasure enthusiasm over books. Looking forward to your Iliad review.

Re: clipped as close as a crow's caw

I look forward to writing the review! Tonight!

And you're welcome for incandescing. I often feel slightly embarrassed about it afterward. Like, maybe people won't think I'm sincere after so many capital letters and exclamation points.

But it's an impulse. And on books I let myself be impulsive since most everything else in life must go according to train schedules.

Re: clipped as close as a crow's caw

I rather think Mr. Enge is used to me drooling all over his stories.

And writing goofy fan poems...



Re: clipped as close as a crow's caw

Oh, I'll never get used to it. But thanks so much for the kind words; I'm awed by your incandescence.

Re: clipped as close as a crow's caw

That's a relief.

(Really. It is. For reals.)

'Cause I'll never stop!

Like St. John Rivers, I am as inexorable as Death! Not your Death, you know, talic signifiers and pwning and everything. More of a Good Omens-y kind of CAPITAL LETTERS-speaking sort of... Oh, hell, I don't know.

Just you write more, please, and I'll keep reading it, and this blog will keep on shining encomium to your name, beckoning to all the HMS Bibliophiles out there that the shores of Laent are the harbour where the party's at.
Well, only the THIRD book is about werewolves. The second is mostly about Khroi (and there is a FABULOUS troll) and, well, other stuff.

The first book was about something else entirely, and I'd recommend you start there. :)