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The Wolf Age

Posted by Steve the Bookstore Guy On Wednesday, October 06, 2010

After reading a ridiculous number of novels, we’ve managed to glean a few morsels of wisdom. The key to reading and enjoying novels of different genres and sub-genres is to know what to expect. With Epic Fantasy you prepare for large novels, and slow-paced sections punctuated by sprawling battles. With Mystery/Thrillers, you expect contrived dialogue, and a mandatory twist. Hard SF? You have a dictionary handy for those unavoidable moments where the author makes you feel completely dumb. When it comes to Heroic Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery, however, you need to be prepared for something completely different.

Sword & Sorcery is like white-water rafting. You let yourself get carried by the torrent. Sometimes it is rough. There will be brief, calm moments that lull you into complacency right before the next series of rapids. If you fight against the current, you get nowhere. If you go with the flow, and become part of the ride, you soon find you are grinning ear-to-ear, and having the time of your life.

Reading a James Enge novel is like that, and his latest novel THE WOLF AGE is no exception.

THE WOLF AGE stars Enge’s crooked-shouldered protagonist, the Maker Morlock Ambrosius. When sober, Morlock is a terrible foe. When drunk, he is a different type of foe altogether. He can seemingly make anything. It is his gift. It is also, as the saying goes, his curse. THE WOLF AGE finds Morlock having abandoned everyone dear to him. His self-imposed exile removes his loved-ones from the danger and imminent doom that is focused on him.

And of course, this being Morlock, nothing goes right.

The novel begins with Morlock being taken captive by a community of werewolves. And by community, we mean a civilization. Morlock’s goals, in the beginning, are simple. Survival. Escape. All the while, the Strange Gods are using him and everyone else in the area to attain a goal.

THE WOLF AGE is Sword & Sorcery. That means all sorts of death and destruction, followed by more death and destruction. The pacing is fast, and the action is visceral. Enge usually has a fair bit of humor to offset the grim tones, but that humor is largely absent for the beginning quarter of the novel. It is done to great effect. An early action sequence pits Morlock against a werewolf. The resolution had even us saying, “Well geez, that was BRUTAL.” Grim doesn’t even begin to encompass the beginning. The reader feels just how hopeless Morlock is. So amazingly well done.

As the novel progresses, the humor returns. Enge writes dry wit better than most authors, and it is what keeps his novels from being dragged down in hopelessness. As we mentioned earlier, beware the lulls in the novel. Beware those points where everything is rainbows and jellybeans for the characters. Enge is about to sucker-punch you with awesomeness.

THE WOLF AGE is the third Morlock novel, but if you felt like it, you could read it first. Enge does an incredible job making the werewolf civilization seems unique and realized, and he inserts Morlock into that learning process along with the readers. What this does is let new and old readers alike learn about what kind of man Morlock is. Would you be better served reading the novels in order? Well duh. You always are. And Enge’s first two novels are freaking great.

THE WOLF AGE isn’t perfect. There are times when progression in the novel is jumbled and overly chaotic. Sometimes descriptions—especially of Morlock’s inventions—aren’t clear enough. The werewolf names can really blend together. But really all this doesn’t matter. The novel is just plain enjoyable. The themes of racism and individualism are abundant. And even more than that, loyalty and the ability to look past the surface of things.

James Enge might be one of the most underrated novelists out there at the moment. For whatever reason, authors like Enge, JV Jones, and others don’t get the recognition they deserve. If you haven’t read anything by James Enge, you are missing out. Go grab the first two novels, BLOOD OF AMBROSE and THIS CROOKED WAY. Also read his short story “The Singing Spear” in the SWORDS & DARK MAGIC anthology. If you let yourself get washed away in the flood of Enge’s stories, you may find yourself with another author to put on your “favorites” list.

Recommended Age: 18 and up.
Language: Hardly any. There are a bunch of made up werewolf insults and insinuations though.
Violence: Oh yes. Werewolf politics is a violent practice.
Sex: Two graphic scenes.


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