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Dark Fantasy Review: Overwinter: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington

Synopsis:

Powell and Cheyenne, a pair of werewolves from the first novel in this series, Frostbite, are trying to spend safely their first arctic winter still looking for a cure for their state. It happens somebody else is looking for them and that particular somebody means trouble big time. Her name is Lucie. She is a sadistic French werewolf girl who had bitten Powell some hundred years ago and now treats him as her husband. Having made a total mess of her latest Siberia hideout, she decided the ground under her dainty feet was too hot – she left for Cananda to find some backup. She joins her former lover and creation asking for Powell’s protection. And killing a bar full of innocent people on her way just because she felt like it. As you can imagine Chey and Powell are less than thrilled – the attention of the local authorities and law enforcement is the last thing they want. Especially that Chey starts having some very worrying symptoms – apparently her wolf is becoming stronger than her human nature but if she allows the wolf prevail she will end up insane. The time for finding a cure is becoming short indeed.

Lucie is closely followed by Varkanin, an elderly but still hale and hearty Russian hunter who had shot her back in Siberia and whose family she destroyed – in retalliation she murdered all of his three adult daughters. Varkanin is very motivated to find Lucie and make her pay for her sadism. He is also a formidable opponent, with his specnaz training and a lot of colloidal silver inside his body. Additionally he is given substantial support from the side of Preston Holness, a shadowy figure working for the Canadian government. Holness specializes in unsavoury deals the government needs but officially would abhor like using prohibited land mines, depleted uranium bullets or killing off a bunch of werewolves just because they operate in an area rich in oil a big oil company is interested in.

Will Powell find a cure? Will Lucie let him stay with Chey? Will Varkanin get his revenge and the oil company – its drilling towers? As usual there will be no easy solutions and no easy answers.

What I liked:

It was a gutsy story – as beautiful but also as cruel as the Arctic itself. There are a lot of deaths at the end, some of them very painful although still logical. I truly couldn’t have thought of a better end; I also couldn’t have written anything more depressing. If Powell and Chey were handed a HEA (happily ever after), so a little prairie house and one evening at the bowling alley a week as they planned at one point, I would threw this book away; on the other hand the way the book (and the series) ends, made me rather sad. Love does conquer all, even lycanthropy, but sometimes the price is high indeed, so high that you wonder whether it was worth it…ok, before I get maudlin let me progress with the rest of likes.

I liked the mythological spirit of muskrat (Dzo), accompanied by that of a polar bear and a dire wolf better this time. Their role in the book was more precisely outlined, more important and far more understandable than in the first installment. I also liked how the character of Varkanin was presented – a former specnaz soldier, a cruel hunter but also a deeply-wounded individual who lived just for his revenge. Creepy but so very true. Similar things can be said about Lucie – she is very pretty, very sweet sadist who also, once upon a time, was hurt and wasn’t given any choice but to follow her fate. You feel sorry for her for 1/3 of the story and you hate her for the rest.

What I didn’t like:

It is not really a flaw because this book was very good; However, it made me very sad. I think you should be warned – don’t read it when you have a spell of autumn blues (or any other kind of blues). The ending will hardly put you in a better mood. Of course it was all good, logical and understandable but still…prepare a lot of chocolate and maybe even a highball.

Final verdict:

A very good, intelligent but definitely a very adult fantasy series with some violence and no easy issues. I recommend it but I am also aware that it might be not a pair of novels for everyone. If you crave for something to cheer you up and make you all warm and happy you might actually want to steer clear of it.

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Dark Fantasy Review: ‘ Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale’ by David Wellington

Synopsis:

A young woman, Cheyenne Clark, is heli-hiking in an underpopulated area of the northern part of Canada, apparently looking for some traces of a strange animal. Although she is well prepared for such rough conditions still she gets lost, falls into a river and almost drowns. Half alive, with most of her possessions either destroyed or gone, she tries to find a shelter, not an easy thing in the Canadian wilderness. When the night falls the animal she was tracking finds her. And scratches her leg with its fangs.

From that point the life of Cheyenne changes dramatically – yes, she becomes a werewolf herself, no surprises here taking into account the title. Now she must face not only the werewolf who turned her against her will into a monster (well, he hasn’t planned that much either) and now wants to kill her for her own good but also her associates who hadn’t taken such a turn of events into account. Or perhaps they had. Anyway they are as dangerous to her as to her prey now, having some silver bullets at their disposal and a lot of experience under their belt…

What side will her boyfriend take – a man who has been actively hunting a werewolf half his life? What will Cheyenne do with her little furry problem- will she be able to accept her new, very limited life? Or maybe a silver bullet in the head will seem a far nicer solution?

What I liked:

Although I managed to cram the whole story into a very short synopsis it doesn’t mean that the book is short or simplistic. Quite the opposite in fact. And I enjoyed it immensely.

First of all the narration is full of surprises. Werewolf’s life was made a tad more difficult than usually in PNR books– here such a creature must change into a monster whenever the Moon rises, no matter what phase, so practically most of the nights. The characters’ stories are also a bit more complicated – no easy falling in love, plenty of problems, no slick solutions. As soon as you think you know everything there is to be known about the trio of main heroes: Cheyenne, her boyfriend, Bobby Fenech, and Montgomery Powell, the werewolf who turned Chey into a monster, the author adds some more info making you scratch your head and wonder. I did like it very much – scratching, thinking and reading :-).

The characters are well-rounded indeed and their actions – always psychologically viable and fully justified…of course when you get the whole picture. So no sooner than by the end of the book. I really sympathized with Cheyenne and Powell (but for different reasons) and even enjoyed a more rough, cruel and blood-dripping image of a werewolf. If you are (like yours truly) dead tired and bored stiff with those fluffy, pinky, cloying romances featuring unvaryingly handsome and well-muscled guys who just happen to have a bit more beast inside than an average human being but otherwise are simply loving and cuddly try this one. I am sure you will find it refreshingly scary.

I also liked the ending but I must mention there is a lot of violence in this one. Although the scenes are not overly graphic, they do sound real enough to make you cringe. It has a point, though, a very good point, showing that a monster is as monster does. Add to it some political background (like the real reason why the Canadian government were so interested in seeing all werewolves dead) and you get a surprisingly intricate and original story. One you would like to continue (yes, it is a series as far as I know).

What I didn’t like:

There was just one minor detail – I really couldn’t figure out what the role of Dzo was. If you haven’t read the book – Dzo is a magical entity, a musquash/muskrat spirit, looking like any human male (with some quirks but who doesn’t have them, after all) but being anything but human. First difference – he can hang out with shape-shifters without being considered by them a prey, even when they change their form. He follows Powell and helps him from time to time but we are not told why or to what end. Just because both are lonely? Secondly Dzo claims he has been living for not mere years or centuries but rather millenia – allegedly he saw Neandertals (yes, the author apparently believes in evolution) and Paleo-Indians, inhabiting Canada. Thirdly he is a vegetarian…but actually I am surprised he has to eat anything. He also can appear and disappear at will, having strong affiliation with running water. Perhaps after reading the second installment this character will be made clearer to me.

Final verdict:

Definitely a kind of paranormal story I like and appreciate: honest, perhaps a bit closer to some classic fairy tales about werewolves ( I really sometimes saw Chey as the Little Red Ridding Hood of a kind) but also gritty and real. I am really looking forward to the second part, entitled Overwinter!

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