Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

Book review: Way of the Wolf

One more review for today, Way of the Wolf by E. E. Knight.

This is the first book in the Vampire Earth series.  It introduces the world convincingly and goes to a reasonable end-of-episode (no awful cliffhanger).

Readers tired of today's sensitive new age vamps can hardly complain that this modern sfnal take on the legendary bloodsucker makes them too nice.  In fact, the only thing more evil and nightmare-inspiring than the alien vampires in this world is the human quislings who collaborate with them -- which, at least as a general theme, goes a long way back in the vampire canon.  The bad guys show up in about 2022, and we, the human race that is, lost the war, worldwide, in about a year, mostly thanks to a plague that makes humans into something as close to zombies as the aliens are to vampires.  But of course there are a few stubborn rebels who don't accept that, and we follow one of them through his training and the beginning of a promising career.  Nonstop action, pretty gory but not beyond my limits, a world that seems to be internally consistent and is well enough justified that I could suspend my disbelief for the ride, and a storyline whose predictability didn't keep me from turning pages.

A good book, if you're in the mood for this sort of a book, and I guess I was.  8 out of 10.


David Valentine is in his late teens, an orphan in the wilds of northern Minnesota, an area remote enough that the Reapers don't visit much and leave enforcement of the Kurian Order to a few quisling patrols.  His father was part of the resistance before he retired, and David's interest is awakened when a man who knew his father passes through.  He's recruiting for the Wolves, and David joins up.  The recruitment drive makes its way to the Ozarks, and David gets put in charge of a few other recruits and shows some responsibility.  He's just about to get somewhere with Gabby Cho, a girl he knew slightly from home who also joined up when she's taken in a surprise attack.  He goes on a mission to find the nest the harpy that took her from; it's successful as far as finding and taking out the nest, but Gabby was already quite dead.  Then, as they're preparing to return, they're attacked by a Reaper (an avatar of the actual alien life-eating bad guys), which David kills by setting off the dynamite in his buddy's backpack while the Reaper is eating his buddy.  There's a long period of training and being in reserve, which is a good point to explain that the actual resistance fighters are given special powers by a good-guy alien wizard.  The Hunters, as they're called, identify as one of three types, Wolves (general fighting men who work as units to harry the enemy and defend their territory, Cats (independent agents who do solo espionage work in enemy territory), and Bears (shock troops, super tough berserkers who can take on Reapers in hand to hand combat).  David meets the wizard and becomes a Wolf, gaining heightened senses and endurance.  On a training mission with a Cat named Eveready, they find a boat marked with a reversed swastika.  Then they get chased by a Reaper.  Eveready wants them to split up; David wants to keep the group together.  Eveready ends up on his own, two of the others stay with David, and one goes off alone; the loner of course dies, but David makes it, thanks to the loan of Eveready's bigger gun.  Then David gets tapped to be a lieutenant, gets some officer training, and then on a relatively routine mission just outside of the Free Territory borders, finds a settlement of humans allied with Grogs.  The Grogs are intelligent monsters created by the bad guys, but at least some of them don't like being slaves and will join humans -- but the humans are prejudiced.  So this settlement is out here.  When David forms an honest alliance with the group, instead of trying to annex them and demand taxes, he's able to bring several hundred fighters (normal humans, not Wolves) onto his side.  Then David gets tapped to help escort a courier back to Wisconsin with the occasional messages that bind the various pockets of resistance together.  The messages are delivered, but they're nearly caught, and Gonzo gets shot in the elbow.  They manage to hole up with a sympathizer farmer (who helps people escape via a sort of Underground Railroad).  The cover is that David is moving into the area and wants to marry Molly.  Unfortunately, there's a tent meeting of a quasi-religious organization "encouraged" by the Kurian, and the "bishop" decides that Molly looks like a nice companion so he's going to take her.  Molly decides that she'd rather lose her virginity with someone she sort of likes than with the slug, so she surprises David the day before she's to be taken off.  Then she surprises everyone by sticking a steak knife through the Bishop's neck when they're alone for the first time.  David and Gonzo manage to take out the patrol that's come to take the farmer's family in reprisal.  David sends the rest off to try to find their way south and goes on a personal mission to rescue Molly, which leads him first through the quisling sheriff brother-in-law of the farmer, and then to Chicago, where he uses a contact he made earlier to get some information and a pass into the Zoo.  Lincoln Park has been turned into a red-light district that's a reward for good quislings, and he has a lead that Molly is going to be the entertainment at the worst place there, the Black Hole.  By great luck, or a little deus ex, he discovers that there's a Lifeweaver (the good guy aliens) being held captive, forced to use his shape changing ability as a circus attraction.  David creates a diversion by giving some matches to the Grogs who run the killing pit, and combines bribery and murder to spring Molly.  Then he manages to rescue Rho, who turns out to be the Lifeweaver who made his father a Wolf.  And Rho takes on the aspect of a Reaper, which allows them to escape to a boat at Navy Pier, though the effort fatally exhausts Rho.  David and Molly run off to lie low for the winter back in northern Minnesota, but we know he's not going to settle down there.
Tags: book review, e e knight, fantasy
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