Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: The Wolves of Paris by Michael Wallace

I often complain that it is difficult to find good werewolf stories, especially among self-published titles, but sometimes you strike gold. Michael Wallace's The Wolves of Paris is based on a historical story of a pack of wolves that attacked people in and around Paris in 1450, but takes it into a new direction by turning it into a fantasy tale of werewolves and witchcraft.

The story begins with the arrival of two Venetian brothers, Marco and Lorenzo, to Paris. They arrive to find out what's happened with their agent in the city and to visit a woman, Lucretia, they both know from their past. However, they find the city in chaos as it has been attacked by a pack of hungry wolves. A zealous friar Montquillon has managed to capture two men suspected of being werewolves and an innocent dog belonging to Lucretia.

"The world is filled with evil. Witches celebrate midnight mass with the flesh and blood of innocents. Men become wolves at night. Even in the crypts below Notre Dame you will find demons." - Michael Wallace

The story is very fast-paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. The historical detail of the 1450 Paris is excellent and weaved perfectly in the story aside from one short section where Lucretia examines a book and the copier's markings on it. The two brothers are very well characterised and their sibling rivalry (including rivalry over Lucretia) and differing values are intrinsic to the story. Similarly well drawn is the friar who is an easy-to-hate religious zealot, but still necessary for the battle against the werewolves. Lucretia is also a good character, but there's one section where she explains the motivation behind something that she's done that does not entirely convince - especially since another character immediately says what the most logical action would have been.

The werewolves in the story are the product of witchcraft - men who have desired the power of the wolf form and gone through a bloody ritual to achieve it. But, once in the wolf form, they feel unquenchable thirst for human flesh. There's also some magic involved, but I will not describe those for fear of ruining the surprises along the way.

"They're out to kill. They suffer a hunger that can never be satisfied, bellies that will never fill. If they catch your scent in their nostrils, they cannot be satisfied until they've had you." - Michael Wallace

The writing is excellent throughout and I was pretty much never thrown out of the story because of it, aside from occasional word repetition and a single French word that was too modern for the period. The story is very fast-paced and adventure-oriented, bringing to mind classic 50's era fiction in some ways. It does not quite reach the heights of the slightly more philosophically oriented werewolf novels that I've reviewed on this blog, but I feel that it squeezes very close to my Top 5 list nevertheless.