i don’t know if this is just the gift you were waiting for but i do have something for you today — a brief two-minute review of david wellington’s latest, frostbite. (mild spoilers follow. nothing that will ruin the book, i promise.)
having done zombies (the monster series) and vampires (13 bullets, 99 coffins, et. al.), wellington really had only one monster left to do. bet you can guess what it was.
werewolves — weres in general — have never been my thing. i find them terrifying — once, actually, when playing a table-top game of white wolf “vampire,” my gm asked us all what monsters or beasties we found the most frightening as ourselves not as our characters. i said, “werewolves” — and what d’you know? without fail a werewolf showed up in the next session. 🙂 she turned out to be fairly helpful if my memory is accurate, but still. the point stands. weres creep me out. i don’t know why; i have this vague memory of seeing some part of a scary movie that involved werewolves when i was really little and obviously whatever it was has stayed with me. i have a vivid memory of a nightmare — again, from when i was relatively small — that involved werewolves and biting and moons and the like. very nasty.
still, despite all this, i don’t seek out werewolves in horror fiction and i don’t find them that scary now except in movies where the transform tends to be gross and the feeding habits grotesque. (underworld is my exception for this rule because i like the transform and, really, there’s michael sheen overacting like all get out. how can you not love that?) i got tired of weres rather early on when i was still reading laurell k. hamilton’s anita blake books and i swear to god there was were-everything. werewolves, tigers, leopards, jaguars, bears, alligators, parrots, mice — good god, it was ridiculous. and while zombies are pretty straight-forward munch-machines, vampires at least tend to keep their heads about them as characters. you can still narrate while draining someone dry. (i realise there are exceptions to this rule.) werewolves — not so much.
but i like david wellington very much so i wanted to give his werewolves a shot. and they’re good. not as good as his vampires — the end of 13 bullets is my favorite, personally; i love the uber-vamp’s parting shot — but they’re solid. he’s given them more brain and more thinking power when in wolf form which saves you from having either animal-style narration which is always awkward or just big gaps in the narrative that the poor characters then have to go to great lengths to fill in. his narrator, named cheyenne, is an engaging voice and goes through the “oh, woe is me — the curse has come upon me!” stage very quickly. she’s also duplicitous, cunning, and not entirely unhappy to suddenly have unnatural strength and healing capabilities. i find this compelling in a narrator. 🙂 whining really doesn’t get you very far in this kind of situation; you might as well just suck it up and learn to enjoy as best you can.
while wellington spends quite a few chapters establishing the rules for his weres — basically nothing you haven’t heard before although they’re quite a bit stronger and angrier than other versions of the story — he doesn’t spend a lot of time establishing the rules for his world. which means that it’s kind of a shock to discover, about halfway through the book, that lycanthropes are a known, knowable quantity in this world. it’s not some awful shock that there are weres around. it’s not great news, but it’s not “oh, she’s just crazy” news, either. i’m thinking this is the set-up for another series; since it ends not quite on a cliffhanger, but definitely with a kind of “and then…?” feeling.
there are some great secondary characters — i’m thinking primarily of dzo, here, who is one of the first characters you meet other than cheyenne. i think he has real potential and i’m hoping wellington does go on largely so i can find out precisely what he’s capable of.
there are some problems, of course. as it becomes frustrating in his vampire books that no-one seems to think of flamethrowers as a weapon, it becomes frustrating in frostbite that the weres can heal from pretty much anything. without lasting damage. i mean, of any kind. not even a migraine. by the end of the book i was kind of tired of this as a trick, but it did make for a really resilient narrator.
overall impression? 7 out of 10. definitely worth reading. don’t think too hard about it while you’re reading.