Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cedar Sanderson's The God's Wolfling

Ok, I'll admit it. As a guy who read Bulfinch's Mythology before he became a teenager I've always wanted to know what a story with characters from differing mythologies would look like.  I've always wanted to see just a bit of fighting as well and, to put it bluntly, if you've read the Thor comic book by Marvel and haven't wondered what it would be like to see the Asgardians mix it up with some of the other gods you haven't lived. Cedar Sanderson's The God's Wolfling provides a universe that mixes the mythologies and has a war as well. It's a tale of a girl who is too young to do what needs doing - and does it anyway. It is also a crossover novel that mixes SF with fantasy in a manner similar to John Ringo's Council Wars series.

As someone who has a passion for this kind of thing, I'm going to start off this review by praising Ms Sanderson for the hard work she put into not just the writing of this book, but the research. She shows a lot of knowledge about various myths. We could argue all day long about whether or not things would shake out the way she thinks they would (and we WOULD and probably WILL because we're nerds and that's what we do. ) but she has obviously done enough work to at least make an educated guess. If her version of Fimbulwinter isn't what I always expected, it works within the story and displays the concepts in her novel better than just about anything else could. Oh, and just for full disclosure, I'm an Irish lad myself and seeing some of the mythology of my ancestral isle probably did add to my enjoyment of the work.

Our heroes are heroic and are led by a young lass named Linn. She's a youngster who could have used a bit more seasoning before setting off on an adventure of the scope of this one or apparently in the first book, Vulcan's Kittens which I have yet to read. VK was published before Sanderson came onto my radar and I don't remember hearing about it until I received my copy of GTW and I do plan on picking it up.

This book is a sequel, purportedly the last book in the Children of Myth Duology. I can say from experience that while there are obvious references to the first book this book is easy to follow if you haven't read it. The story holds together using the logic internal to it and the references to the first story aren't overpowering. It holds up well as a stand alone and I can't help but think that Sanderson planned things that way. The story draws you in on its own merits and there is no need for knowledge of Linn's first adventure.

I don't want to add too many spoilers because that's not what I do, but Sanderson does a very effective job of mixing magic and technology and, indeed, showing how the magic in her book is actually technology. We all know the adage about "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." from Arthur C. Clarke. Sanderson illustrates that concept with the use of nanotechnology. She also manages to include enough to make the concept known without going too far into it and boring the reader. This is a hard line to walk and she does it well.

The battle scenes in the book are well done. Sanderson does something that, quite honestly, TV shows and movies seem to capture better than most books in dropping us into the middle of a battle out of nowhere and making it believable. She pulls it off well. Oddly enough, I was thinking about this last concept last night while watching Star Trek:Enterprise and then read it today. Violence in the real world isn't always presaged by anything definable or even noticeable. All too often in just happens out of nowhere. There is a lot to be said for the drama of two men staring each other down before the bullets start flying but a little touch of realism is even better. While we're on the subject, Linn finds herself at times wrapped up in violence and wishing for a gun. As a guy who has read all of the Harry Potter novels multiple times and seen the movies more times than he's read the books I find this refreshing. I mean, who hasn't seen the assault on Hogwarts and wished for a M60 for use against the Death Eaters charging across the bridge? Add a few more points for further realism. 

In her note at the end, entitled "What Comes Next?" Sanderson points out that this was originally intended to be the final book in the series. I fail to see the logic behind that decision. I mean, it's her series and her decision but there's more left here. Then she points out that she has learned about more pantheons and that she is willing to do more with those other mythologies. This makes sense to me. Sanderson seems to have done something quite well without realizing it: She wrote a good self-contained story with a satisfying enough ending for this book but she left a lot of loose ends. When I say a lot of loose ends I mean a ton of them. Some may not be as loose as I think they are and I may spend too much time on TV Tropes but until Authorial Fiat is established by the next release I'm sticking to my theory.

My only complaint about this book is that it's too short. It really feels rushed in spots. I've always preferred longer works and The God's Wolfing is only about one hundred seventy-seven pages long but I think another twist or two and maybe another fight or so wouldn't have gone amiss. Granted, this is the story of Linn and not the story of the war but if she had been around when more things happened instead of hearing about them later it would have added something to this story. Then again, saying that I wish there were more to this story is, in another way, a compliment.

Bottom Line: 4.25 out of 5 Nanobots

The God's Wolfling
Cedar Sanderson
Stonycroft Publishing, 2014

The God's Wolfling can be purchased here:

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