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Book Review: Wolfbreed by S. A. Swann

# Genre: Historical Fantasy, Myth, Paranormal Fantasy
# Paperback: 400 pages
# Publisher: Spectra
# Publication Date: August 25, 2009
# ISBN-10: 0553807382
# ISBN-13: 978-0553807387
# Author Website: S. A. Swann

Don’t let the cover mislead you, Wolfbreed by S. A. Swann is not your typical paranormal fantasy. Set in the Transylvanian wilderness during the Middle Ages, the story is about two characters. Uldolf is the one-armed son of the dead chieftain of the town now known as Johannisburg. Lilly is the wolfbreed, a semi-human creature able to take the form of a wolf, and trained by the Teutonic Knights who rule the land to kill pagans. When Lilly escapes and is found wounded and without memory by Uldolf on a return from poaching, it sets off a chain of events that may be death for Uldolf, his entire adoptive family, and all the original inhabitants of the land.

Wolfbreed is wonderfully paced. Though there are times if introspection and reverie, Uldolf and Lilly are quickly cornered and must fight or fly if they are to save those they love, including each other. Lilly is tormented by personal demons, needed to understand the human side of her nature, even as the wolf gets called upon time and time again to save her. Uldolf, who also suffers from memory loss, begins to gain more and more of the memory of just how he lost his arm the more time he spends with Lilly. Though it is fairly obvious where the plot is going, Swann makes it awfully fun to get there, with lots of action and a believable love story.

I enjoyed how Swann structured the novel. Even as current events go on, at the end of each section we skip backwards in time to Lilly and Uldolf’s childhoods. This was a powerful way to build backstory without having to slow down the primary plot, and also gave the story a cadence that made it easy to keep reading.

The story is very violent – rape, torture and murder being significant parts of the narrative. Swann is not crass, but there are several scenes that may cause the reader to wince or shy away at the brutality. There is also one sex scene that is descriptive in content, but it is easily glossed over by those who prefer to avoid such. I wouldn’t say that Swann is gratuitous with the brutality or sexual content, but it is there, so only mature readers should pull this one off the shelves.

Lilly and Uldolf are great characters. Both are damaged in some way, Uldolf by his lack of an arm and Lilly by her bestial nature. But the two of them draw one another out, bringing out the best qualities in each other. As a male, I enjoyed the fact that though there is a love story between these two, it was not overly idealized. Swann does a good job of making these characters compelling, the types of characters that the reader sees a little of themselves in. Swann helps us invest ourselves in the characters, so much so that we enter the world wholeheartedly, smoothly cutting through the narrative as a dolphin cuts through the water.

Themes of loss, human nature, and the power of love drive this action-adventure tale. I was so engrossed that I read the entire thing in an afternoon, entranced by the captivating love story and the thrilling action. I found Wolfbreed to be an exciting read and I recommend it.