One of the challenges of having read a fair amount of fantasy is that I find myself comparing the novels I’ve read. I look for similarities between books, characters and storylines. James Enge’s The Wolf Age is built around the anti-hero who rebels against the existing order, a well used archetype. Fortunately, Enge still manages to put his story together in such a way that makes for a compelling read.
Morlock Ambrosius is a stranger traveling through lands that are being raided and pillaged by a nation of werewolves. Morlock’s combination of martial prowess and magical skills allow for accomplishments that would be otherwise impossible, and he serves as a catalyst for change. Morlock tries to stay out of trouble, but is swept up by a band of raiding werewolves that throw him in prison. They plan to either have him killed by other prisoners or to use him to kill other prisoners. It’s a pretty violent setting, and it’s a motif that runs throughout The Wolf Age. Surprisingly, Morlock makes friends in the prison and they escape together. This escape and the threat they become to the political orders of the werewolf nation makes for the bulk of the story.
Morlock’s werewolf friends from prison become very important to him. The loyalty that builds between Morlock and his companions was my favorite part of The Wolf Age. Seldom have I found something that I admired quite so much as the way that this bond was integrated into the story. “Blood for Blood” — that sort of morality really appeals to me, and it adds a sense of honor and integrity even in a prison setting that I truly found remarkable.
The magic of Enge’s world also appealed to me. He does not get incredibly detailed, but the terms Enge uses and the ways that magic affects things operated according to an intuitive logic. Enge twists science through arcane skills that allow matter and life to be manipulated in a logical fashion. Very cool stuff, in my opinion.
However, The Wolf Age is not a perfect book. There are storylines that I felt didn’t have a place in the book. One of the central premises is an unannounced war amongst the Stranger Gods that I just never got comfortable with. It didn’t really detract from the story, but it just felt ill constructed compared to the rest of The Wolf Age. Despite small defects, Enge has created a story that I wanted to finish. I wanted to know how things would turn out, and I enjoyed Enge’s juxtaposition of loyalty with Morlock’s harsh world. The Wolf Age is a very solid book.