Deadlier…Than The Male by D. Michelle Gent
I confess to not being the biggest fan of paranormal stories in general and stories featuring werewolves in particular normally leave me cold. It was therefore with a certain sense of trepidation that I approached this book but almost from the first page I found myself being drawn into the tale.
The book focuses on the story of Hazel/Red, a young woman from the mid 15th Century England, and follows her adventures between the time of the War of the Roses and her life in modern-day England.
Hazel, after being attacked by a werewolf and turned into one of their kind, rises through the ranks to become Sentinel Exemplar, tasked with dealing with rogue werewolves who break the rules of Wolf society. However, for me, it is hard to describe the characters in the book as being the ‘Good‘ guys and the ‘Bad‘ guys as the lines between right and wrong are so blurred. Red is just as happy to kill innocent victims without any hesitation or conscience as the werewolves she is tasked with hunting down. That is the problem I have with these type of stories. Werewolves kill without thought in a brutally casual and callous manner and that makes it hard for me to truly invest, as a reader, in feeling any empathy with the characters. Miss Gent has done well therefore to have me root for Red despite her bloody life and past as the story flits back and forth through the centuries and around Europe.
Personally, what raises this book above the standard bite and slash werewolf novel is the attention to detail given to the back story of the characters and sticking to the true nature of the werewolf in folk tales. These werewolves are bloody in tooth and claw and are not likely to be seen posing around a High School gym comparing hand-creams and hair care products. These wolves are the creatures of old nightmares, and the book is all the better for it, as Miss Gent delivers a fresh take on an old story. The society of wolves is laid out as a multi-layered tapestry of various classes and orders from the head of all Wolves, the Lycaeon, down to the hated Throwbacks which Red hunts down. Having the leader of Wolfkind called the Lycaeon is itself a nod to the Greek myth of Zeus transforming the king of Arcadia into a wolf for serving up a child as a meal to the god.
The true history buff may point out anachronisms such as the main character sitting down to a bowl of potato soup or drinking chocolate in the 15th Century, but in all honesty small errors such as that do not detract from the story at all. What is more important is how the story feels as a whole, and from the opening scene of a rogue werewolf stalking a lone woman through the dark streets of a town in the English Midlands through to the climatic finale, the story rattles along at a cracking pace with pithy and earthy dialogue. Add to the mixture a rogue werewolf who has started peddling drugs to other wolves and his intention of overthrowing the Lycaeon with the aid of his army of followers and the scene is set for a thrilling and enjoyable read.
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