Sunday, 3 October 2010
Review: Raised By Wolves - Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Then Bryn stumbles upon Chase. A newly-turned Werewolf, the pack have obviously been trying to keep his existence a secret from her. But once she's met him, she can't put him out of her mind. Just one thing is certain - she needs to see him again. Whatever it takes.
Like many novels, Raised By Wolves tells us early on that its protagonist is headstrong, tough, and something of a misfit. Honestly, I've been told this in the opening pages of YA books so many times - only to spend the next three-hundred and something pages reading about said protagonist getting hit on, rescued and fought over by hunks - that nowadays, I take it with a pinch of salt. As it happens, Raised By Wolves' Bryn really is all those things... and then some. While she's been brought up the only human girl in a pack of shapeshifting werewolves, she's no pet. She negotiates their protocol of dominance and obedience knowing she can push the boundaries so far, but if she oversteps the mark she'll be punished by their laws. As narrator, there's something about Bryn's voice, the beat of her words, that forges a raw and almost primal connection between her and the reader. Much like the pack-sense that allows Bryn to sense what other characters are feeling, Raised By Wolves creates a bond between reader and protagonist that means her emotions resonate with us.
At first glance, Raised By Wolves might appear to be a straight-forward paranormal romance. Girl meet boy who is actually a Were - familiar enough territory, right? But while there's an element of romance here, this is essentially a coming-of-age story. Love interest Chase is undeniably a strong presence in the book, but once the pair find their connection, it's instantly apparent that it runs far deeper than boyfriend and girlfriend. Chase may be intriguing in his own right, but it's Bryn who is our hero - and we don't forget that for a second. And since Bryn has been raised in a world where males have all the power, her coming-of-age story sees her challenging a society that's about as patriarchal as it gets. Jennifer Lynn Barnes' portrayal of werewolf culture is wonderfully detailed, with a depth that will impress even the most seasoned werewolf fan. We learn about every aspect of life in the pack, from the life of a newborn puppy to the practices of the Senate that governs them. Most strikingly, it all feels so real: the pack's hybrid of human and animal behaviour utterly convincing.
I can't conclude this review without a few words on Raised By Wolves' secondary characters. Alpha Callum, nurturing human Ali, loveable metrosexual werewolf Devon and formidable female were Lake are a diverse supporting cast drawn so vividly that readers will get to know them as well as they know Bryn herself. This might be a paranormal story, but you're left with the feeling these characters are real as they come. Each of them has a part to play in the mystery that sees Bryn uncovering secrets from her past and discovering who she really is.
Raised By Wolves is compulsive reading. For me, the weakest passages were probably those with a specifically romantic focus, but these are pretty few and far between. Everything else about it swept me away. The characters, the language, the power of the story: this is what it feels like for a book to truly get under your skin.
Out: 16th September 2010, UK / 8th June 2010, US
You can listen to an audio sample of Raised By Wolves here.
A big thanks to Quercus for providing a review copy of this book.