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Book Review: The Wolf Age by James Enge

Genre: Sword and Sorcery, Dark Fantasy
Paperback: 500 pages
Publisher: Pyr
Publication Date: October 5, 2010
ISBN-10: 161614243X
ISBN-13: 978-1616142438
Author Website: James Enge

Stiff necked and crook-shouldered maker Morlock Ambrosius returns in The Wolf Age, a werewolf-filled dark sword and sorcery novel. Author James Enge presents a stand-alone novel that builds on a previously published story (which is also Chapter 10 in This Crooked Way) called “Destroyer”, which appeared in the pages of Black Gate #14.

Morlock becomes involved in the machinations of the Strange Gods, a group of beings, formerly human, who have become the embodiments of a panoply of human traits. But these Gods have a nemesis, a werewolf maker/magician known as Ulugarriu. Morlock, saved from his greatest fear, a drowning, by the embodiment of Death, is just the right catalyst for ending Ulugarriu’s power and influence over his fellow werewolves. Captured and imprisoned by the savage, yet oddly democratic society of werewolves residing in the city of Wuruyaaria, Morlock endures a The Count of Monte Cristo -like imprisonment, waiting for just the right moment to break free. When he does, he and his new friends just may turn the werewolf social order on its head.

Enge continues his mythic/modern blend in this new novel. Unlike Blood of Ambrose however, this reviewer felt that the narrative was better structured, easier to follow, and more logically sequenced. The novel is completely stand-alone, and could be read by anyone, even if they know nothing of Morlock Maker. However, this is no epic fantasy. Enge writes a tale akin to tales of Glen Cook’s Black Company or Abercrombie’s Logen Nine-Fingers. Morlock is no hero, just a man unusually gifted, and though Morlock’s tale guides the plot, the real heroes are his noble werewolf friends.

The story is not perfect, however. Enge introduces elements into the narrative without foreshadowing (particularly the were-rats) which, while logical within the framework of the story, just seem to appear right when the author needs them. It doesn’t reach the level of Deus Ex Machina, as the addition of the were-rats is a mere detail, so it is possible many readers may gloss over it entirely.

Too, the metanarrative, concerning the gods, though at the beginning and occasionally interspersed throughout, doesn’t really seem to be a part of the story. It is as if Enge wrote this great tale about Morlock and a rival maker which took an unexpected narrative turn, and in order to provide a conflict, Enge was forced to add the tale of Strange Gods and their attempt to destroy the werewolves. On the other hand, it could be said that Enge is just being extremely subtle about this narrative, and when the big reveal occurs, readers who look back on the narrative will see the metanarrative woven ever so quietly throughout the novel. This reviewer favors the latter interpretations, as it makes the novel ever so much more cohesive in tone and content.

Ultimately, Enge continues to tread new ground. The Wolf Age is a novel-length sword and sorcery that integrates both ghost-driven airships, a democratic society with a bloody electoral process, and werewolves all into a beautiful yet oddly twisted civilization. The Wolf Age is mythic in its tone and content, yet modern in its theme, and bound up with action-adventure. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling; it’s what Tolkien might have written had he lived in this postmodern age.