I read a lot of fantasy. I know that you probably know that but some people might be new here and they might not know that so hello new people – I read a lot of fantasy. Of the 33 books I’ve read so far in 2020 23 of them have been fantasy. But fantasy is such a broad genre and I’ll confess I tend to stick to specific kinds of fantasy, I’m pretty good at judging what I will and won’t enjoy and I stick to that pretty rigidly.
But sometimes, mostly to prove myself right, I’ll pick up more of a wildcard.
The Wolf’s Call was one such wildcard. Here was a male-written fantasy featuring a male protagonist going about and fighting people. Not usually my jam whatsoever. I honestly can’t remember what made me request this book on NetGalley but here we are!
How did it go? Was The Wolf’s Call my gateway drug for what I (semi-politely) call ‘man fantasy’?
Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. Yet he cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.
Now whispers have come from across the sea of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.
To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honour and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he cannot hope to win.
I’ll preface this with a little bit of a disclaimer – this book is the start of a new series but does take place in the same universe as the Raven’s Shadow series – which I have not read. So I’m evaluating this book based on how it stands on its own rather than how it fits into a wider universe. This means I’ve almost certainly missed character references and nuances that other people would find. Just so you’re aware of where I’m coming from.
This book is almost dual POV, which I wasn’t initially expecting, we get the POV of Vaelin (who I think is a character from previous books?) as well as that of Luralyn – A FEMALE CHARACTER. Things were looking up. The majority of the book is from Vaelin’s perspective but as someone who almost never enjoys something with a sole male protagonist I was grateful for the breaks.
So broadly speaking we have the good guys against the villain – and we get a little of both sides of things. The villain, Darkblade, is one of those ‘I free slaves so they love me but really I don’t improve their lives at all I just use them for power’ kinds of villains – it’s written pretty well, and it’s much better than ‘he’s just a bad man’ which some similar books fall back on, but I wouldn’t say it’s hugely innovative, which is something I’m realising I need from fantasy because I read so much of it.
I think that was my biggest takeaway from this book – it’s a perfectly decent fantasy story, it holds together and it has interesting characters – there just wasn’t enough innovation for me to feel this book was doing something new. I wouldn’t tell someone not to read it, but if they asked me for recommendations it wouldn’t be at the top of my list.
My suspicion is that you get quite a lot out of this book having read the first series – and a quick glance at some other reviews would suggest something similar. Since this isn’t a sub-genre I particularly enjoy, I can’t say I’ll be dashing out to read the other books – but I think that would be my recommendation to anyone interested in this kind of book – head on back and read the Raven’s Shadow series.
I’m having a hard time reviewing this book largely because it hasn’t stuck with me, I have a strong memory of a lot of travelling scenes interspersed with fight scenes – which just aren’t the things I personally enjoy in fantasy fiction. I would have loved some stronger worldbuilding, a better sense of the detail of this world. It’s not that the worldbuilding isn’t there – it’s just not the way I enjoy worldbuilding.
I ended up giving this a solid three-star rating because I don’t think this book is bad, but as a recommendation from me, with all of my personal biases and preferences…I wasn’t sure what to do. I think that if you like other books that are similar to this book you will enjoy The Wolf’s Call, but it didn’t do enough that felt new for me to root for it.
My rating: 3 /5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The Wolf’s Call publishes February 20th!
What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know in the comments below!