I was pretty torn when I read WOLFSANGEL, the first in M. D. Lachlan’s historical fantasy series about the Norse god, Odin, and his eternal battle with the wolf, Fenrir. It had a whole lot that I loved and bundle more that really bothered me. Going into this book, I considered myself to be hopefully optimistic with a couple major concerns. Now that I’ve read Lachlan’s second offering, I again find myself torn but for completely different reasons. Because of this, I am going to do my best to give you my honest opinion.
FENRIR begins a number of years after the events in WOLFSANGEL, with the sacking of Paris by the Vikings. They’ve come to take the maiden, Aelis, from her brother, the Count of Eudes and emperor-hopeful of the Franks. With them comes a brother-and-sister pair of Odin’s priests that have their own reasons for finding the girl. Leshii, a trader of goods and services, is also accompanying a wolf-man from the north, sent by King Helgi of the Danes, to try and take Aelis back to him. From the French side, a crippled confessor and viewer of godly visions, Jehan, ends up being taken and pulled into the fray somehow as well, and it’s a good thing too, because…well, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
It’s all sounding good so far, right?
Again, for those that haven’t read the previous novel, this series is shaping up to be a continual re-telling of the eternal battle between Odin and Fenrir. Like the first novel, FENRIR is a fast-moving, action-packed story that’s full of history and mythology, a plot that twists and turns, and a whole host of characters…
…characters that, for me, are one of the novel’s big problems. There are so many characters in this story that I was all over the place trying to figure out what was going on for about the first half of the book. Everyone has their own reason for doing what they do, except for the main characters, who only seem to be dragged along by the rest of the pack. And nearly every single one of them are point of view characters. We get some King Helgi (though nearly all of it’s flashback), Helgi’s sick/dying daughter, Svava, and the brother-priest, Hugin (which kills nearly all of the mega-evil juju the guy had going for him prior to getting PoV-time). There are also some random bits from a Danish farm boy and a healer, not to mention the fact that the head jumping is all over place.
So I kept asking myself “What is going on here?” Really the only major idea that came through for me was that all of the main characters from the first book had been reborn and I was supposed to figure out who was who. Honestly, it didn’t push my buttons, but I recognize that others may be able to really like the history and the fast-moving story.
Lachlan’s prose is really good when he sticks to a single character. I had the exact same comment in my review for WOLFSANGEL. One of the major concerns I had for this book was that if the story this time around didn’t naturally lend itself to characters being on their own a lot, then it’d get really confusing. And FENRIR does exactly that. Between the head jumping, and flashbacks within flashbacks, and vague hints as to who-is-who reincarnated, and even the main characters that suddenly make snap choices with no foreshadowing whatsoever, this book was a study in frustration for me. There didn’t seem to be any point to it besides the mystery of the character’s identities.
I would love to see this story done well. I think there’s so much potential here. Viking mythology? Uh-huh. Crazy-killer werewolves? Absolutely yes. Give it to me. FENRIR though was killed by the lack of a new story and the lack of focus to that story. And yet still, I find myself on the fence, torn.
So was this a mediocre book? Not really. I just don’t know how else to place it. Again, lots of good and lots of completely annoying. This time around, there was too much confusion and annoying for me to say that I liked it. Definitely not my cup of tea. It’s all going to come down to what you thought of the first novel, and whether the stuff I mention above seems like it’s going to bother you or not. You decide.
Recommended Age: 18+
Language: A handful of strong words
Violence: Sword-fighting, some deaths, cannibalism, got fairly gory
Sex: Referenced a few times but no detail