Raised by Wolves: Mixed messages

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book reviews Jennifer Lynn Barnes Raised by WolvesRaised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I’m of two minds about Raised by Wolves. It features a suspenseful plot (especially in the second half) and one really good message, but also includes, possibly by accident, a couple of disturbing messages.

Bronwyn “Bryn” Clare is a human girl being raised by werewolves. As a little girl, she and her parents were attacked by a feral werewolf, a “Rabid.” A pack of “good” werewolves burst into the house and rescued Bryn but were too late to save her parents. Bryn is now fifteen, and like many teenagers, is chafing at the restrictions placed on her by her adoptive family. This only intensifies when she meets Chase, a cute boy who was Changed by a Rabid and is now in pack custody. Bryn is drawn to him and to the idea that he might be able to tell her more about the attack she survived all those years ago.

At about the halfway point of the book, Bryn breaks pack law and is badly abused for it. It was here that I nearly gave up on Raised by Wolves. The problem is not that there’s abuse in the book (though this scene is hard to read); bad things happen to people in real life and in fiction. The problem is that Bryn seems to think it’s a just punishment for her actions. Her human adoptive mother, Ali, uses this as a reason to leave the Pack and take Bryn far away, and I’m in total agreement with Ali:

The fact that you don’t hate him for this breaks my heart. And if we weren’t leaving because of what they’d done to you, we’d be leaving because the pack has twisted you enough to make you think that it’s okay for someone to treat you that way.

I did persevere with the book and I’m glad I did. Bryn learns that something horrible is going on and that the werewolf Senate wants to sit by and let it happen. She gathers a few friends — Chase, plus “metrosexual werewolf” Devon and weapon-obsessed Lake — and hatches a plan to stop the atrocity. Bryn really comes into her strength here, and it seemed the book had redeemed itself and that Bryn had realized her abuser wasn’t worthy of the pass she was giving him. I can’t say I like the answer to why some people live when bitten by werewolves and others die; it smacks a little of blaming the victims if they don’t survive. But other than that, the second half is great.

Until we get to the ending, and Bryn’s abuser shows up and explains his reasons. It was all part of a master plan, you see. So it’s okay. Yuck.

So, Raised by Wolves is, on the one hand, a story about how an underdog becomes a leader and a hero. On the other hand, at times it seems like a story about how abuse is sometimes justified and how anyone who dies in a violent assault is somehow lacking.

The romance aspect doesn’t really work either; we don’t get to know Chase well enough for that. There is literally nothing between Bryn and Chase besides mutual stubbornness and their supernatural bond. Friendships are well-drawn, though; Bryn’s relationships with Devon and Lake are beautiful. I also loved Ali and her kids. Especially Kaitlin. How adorable!

Overall, Raised by Wolves isn’t quite up to the level of Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver or Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, but you might enjoy it if you liked those books. Just be prepared for some seriously dysfunctional werewolves.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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