Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wolfborn, by Sue Bursztynski

Published by Woolshed Press, 2010

Etienne is the son of a lord in the kingdom of Armorique. He goes to train with Geraint of Lucanne, as his page, in the hope of becoming a knight. But Geraint has a secret - he is bisclavret, a born werewolf. Etienne - experiencing certain supernatural tendencies and visions of his own - must deal with both his Lord’s and his own secrets. What follows is a romp through medieval landscapes, encounters with ancient Celtic mythology, a touch of romance, and just a good old-fashioned story of betrayal and discovery.
Werewolves are all the rave now in YA literature - those fangs and clipped wings have fallen to the power of the claw (thanks, Jacob Black). I love werewolves, and the mythology that surrounds them - all full moons and animal instincts and the man giving way to the beast (on a side note, one of the movies I can watch over and over again and love it just a little more every time is Dog Soldiers - check it out, it's a great werewolf movie and great human characters). So it's great to see an Australian author having a decent go at the genre and even shaking it up - drawing on her own myths and folktales to create a werewolf lore that isn't just a rehash of what we've read and seen before.

When I first started reading I thought the writing was perhaps a tiny bit clumsy - I can't help analysing everything from my own perspective on writing (for eg: that isn't how I'd write that etc). I also got a bit lost over who was who and what they did. But I quickly got sucked into the intrigue and the mystery and just the great sense of discovery and adventure Wolfborn has. There is some great scene-setting of the forest and castle life, and Etienne's encounters with all the fay beasts have a good sense of awe and otherworldliness. The myth and the reality (Etienne's quest to help Lord Geraint) blend well, and the pacing is good. Bursztynski has created a likeable and charismatic character in Geraint, and so it is easy to invest in the race to save him.

There is some nice romance with the secondary characters - Geraint, Eglantine, Sylvie etc. These romantic elements feel essential to the story and move it along. I was not such a fan of Etienne's romantic plot with Jeanne - I just didn't feel it was necessary. It felt to me just a little surplus to the main plot - like something that might be tacked on to keep Wolfborn relevant to the usual paranormal romance fans. It takes focus away from the excitement of the main plot involving Geraint, and when that is resolved the book then has to trundle along just to make sure everyone gets a happy ending. I also felt Jeanne was one of the weaker characters, so I didn't care for her much.

That is my main (and perhaps only) gripe with Wolfborn. Otherwise I found it quite an exciting little world to spend a few days in. Rich detail and a creative interpretation of well-known lore. Good effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment