Next up: “The Silvered” by Tanya Huff
A standalone novel bringing together steampunk (or gaslight, if you’re feeling pedantic), werewolves, and magic.
The emperor of Kresentian Empire has the ambition and the military force to rule over his neighboring kingdoms. Prime on his list of targets is Aydori, which is ruled by the Hunt Pack, men who can shape-shift into wolves, and the Mage Pack, their magic-using mates. Emperor Leopold hates the beastmen and their wives, believing them unnatural and foul. Add to that a prophecy that six mages will help him gain control over the world, and Aydori is placed firmly in the crosshairs.
The Emperor likes science and technology, and uses them to launch a very successful assault on Aydori, an attack that actually wipes out most of the Hunt Pack. At the same time, a small, specialized group of his men, lead by Captain Sean Reiter, set out to capture the Mage Pack to fulfill the prophecy. However, not everything has gone to plan. One of the Hunt Pack, Thomas, the leader’s younger brother, survived the attack. And Reiter only has five mages…
The main character, Mirian, is a young woman who has washed out of the mage’s university, her gifts not quite strong enough. However, her scent is that of a powerful mage, suggesting that she has a reservoir of strength she has not tapped, or cannot. While Mirian and her family are fleeing to the relative safety of the mountains, she witnesses Reiter taking the Mage Pack captive. Feeling obligated to help, Mirian unknowingly puts herself into danger. Fortunately for her, Thomas can smell her, and comes to help her. They must help the Mage Pack escape, while keeping Mirian out of the hands of Reiter and the Emperor, and keeping Thomas alive.
I think the world is really interesting, and it makes me a little sad that we don’t see or learn a whole lot about the werewolves. I really love shape-shifting in stories, and also the subversion of monster=evil (werewolves began their literary lives as monsters, remember). There’s a little bit, thanks to the beginning of the book, and then Thomas later on, but I was pretty dismayed when the set-up for the story included pretty much killing off all the introduced werewolves (I’d assume there are more in the world, but not part of the story).
Mirian is awesome. She knows she isn’t super powerful, and she’s well aware of the danger in trying to help the Mage Pack, but she still tries. She’s clever and practical, and it’s really great that the typical women=submissive trope in werewolf stories is subverted between Thomas and her. In fact, I liked that there aren’t a whole lot of damsels in distress in the story. Sure there are women captured, but they aren’t just helpless. They do make plans and take actions to help themselves and they’re smart about it, by and large.
The story does still follow some typical tropes, though. Especially with the whole prophecy thing. And if you can’t see what’s coming with the whole ‘Mirian thinks she’s a weak mage, but smells powerful to werewolves’ thing, you might not be paying attention. Still, it wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me. It does detract a little from an otherwise interesting world– I wish more had been done with the Aydori society. The plot was okay, but nothing super special or unique.
Violence. Mild mistreatment of women.