ISBN is

978-0-345-43526-2 / 0345435265

The Wolf King

by Borchardt, Alice

Publisher:Del Rey

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Alice Borchardt writes at least as well as her sister does--and her sister is Anne Rice. The Wolf King is the third in her series of alternate history novels with shape-shifting protagonists, following The Silver Wolf and Night of the Wolf. Reading the first two adds to the reader's understanding of the characters, though it's not required.

Borchardt mixes fantasy, horror, romance, suspense, action-adventure, political intrigue, and realistic evocation of Italy in the late eighth century. She uses lyrical descriptive passages to set scenes and immerse the reader in her characters' experiences. When a runaway Saxon slave rescues Regeane, the silver wolf, from a deadly blizzard, "the wind was howling around him and the world was sinking into a cold, gray blueness as the sun set somewhere beyond the clouds." He wraps her in his flea-harboring bearskin, reflecting that "this girl didn't have nearly the healthy temperature he did; maybe the little bastards would die. At any rate, the extermination of his vermin companions was the only benefit he was likely to derive from this particular adventure." He's wrong about that.

Regeane is Maeniel's mate (he's the long-lived werewolf leader of the pack, whose earlier life was featured in Night of the Wolf). Once thawed, Regeane confronts a demented abbot and a gang of (literal) cutthroats to save him. The werewolves and the Saxon head for Geneva to pledge allegiance to Charlemagne, who's about to cross the Alps to challenge King Desederius of the Lombards for control of northern and central Italy.

Soon Maeniel is in Desederius's territory and in danger. Regeane follows, despite his prohibition. They're fated to reencounter Regeane's sniveling cousin Hugo, who seeks revenge. He has become host to a powerful bear spirit who wants the wolves for his own purposes. The new Hugo has a lot in common with the Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin character in All of Me; he provides comic leavening to the sometimes grim action. Other returning characters include Pope Hadrian's tough, practical, but vulnerable mistress Lucilla; her protégé, the singer Dulcinia; and the ageless werewolf earth-mother Matrona.

The Wolf King's almost-too-rich plot lines, characters, and mixed Teutonic, Roman, and Christian mythic elements may overwhelm those new to Borchardt's alternate Dark Ages. The story also ends abruptly--leaving plenty of room for sequels. --Nona Vero

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