Rating: 4.6 out of 5
What does friendship mean?
Is it sticking up for your cohorts in time of need? Is it putting aside differences and trying to find a common ground? Is it a solemn smile or a firm slap across the face when the other starts to stray? Is it setting aside your own fears and convictions, even though everything about you says to get away, because deep down you just trust this person, for better or worse?
These are the questions David Dalglish asks in Night of Wolves, the first book in his new Paladins series.
With this series, it seems Dalglish is going down a Memento path when it comes to his characters’ stories – aka going backward. This particular book is the tale of Jerico, the paladin of Ashhur we first met (and fell in love with) in The Death of Promises. Wolves takes a few years before the events in the Half-Orc series, and introduces a major plot point that those who’ve digested Dalglish’s work might find unbelievable.
A friendship between paladins of the two polar gods, Ashhur and Karak.
Jerico, it seems, has befriended a young man named Darius while both are stationed in the farming town of Durham, preaching the messages of their particular religions. Theirs is a relationship built upon mutual respect – they learn from each other, protect each other, help each other grow…the gods be damned. And when the wolf-men from the Vile Wedge start crossing the river, threatening the lives of the townsfolk, they must work together even more so than before, which causes just a few moral dilemmas within each of them. But work together they do, because they both realize that without their combined strength, the good men and women of Durham don’t stand a chance.
There are interesting threads all around in this book, such as a new leader rising to lead the pack of wolf-men: Redclaw, a powerful foe with the desire to pull a Moses, bringing his people out of the dead landscape of the Wedge to enter the lush, bountiful forests that lie just out of their reach. There is also the fall of the Citadel, which occurs from afar, the repercussions of which are hinted at, and are haunting. Finally, there is the concluding battle, as the wolf-men gather together and assault the human forces in what is a greatly realized battle sequence.
But none of these threads can compare with Jerico and Darius. They steal the show, and as often happens in Dalglish’s novels, their quiet scenes together are magical. These are two men who grow to love each other over the course of the book, and that brotherly bond is something beautiful to behold. As usual, the author’s asking a philosophical question that not many others do – in this case, can we ever shove the veil of faith out of the way and see our brothers and sisters for what they truly are: fellow human beings, just as deserving of love as any other.
There are many surprisingly tender moments to be seen, and these aspects are what I appreciate the most. On the bad side, some of the battle scenes early on are ho-hum, to the point where I had to fight the desire to skim and turn the page, saying, “Just give me more Jerico and Darius, dammit!” However, I can’t decide if that’s because they really are subpar, or if it’s because the interplay between those two characters is so brilliantly done that everything else seems unimportant. No matter, though, because as I said, Dalglish pulls it out in the end, and the attack (and defense) of Durham is truly a sight to behold, equaling (though not surpassing) those more tender moments
Reading Night of Wolves is a fantastic experience. It’s short and to the point, filled with just about everything I love about the author’s work. It’s dark yet filled with hope, brutal yet compassionate. The words he weaves captivates, pulling us in and making us care about these people. The story is chock-full of metaphor, of the questions of what moral belief is correct, if there’s a correct one at all. This is one point I’m not going to harp on in this review, however, for I’m sure I’ll have plenty of things to say on that very subject when the next book comes out in a couple months.
Once again, I fully recommend Night of Wolves. You’ll enjoy seeing friends and enemies, old and new, and be intrigued by just how the ungodly mess Jerico and Darius have gotten into will resolve itself. It’s an oddity: an edge-of-your-seat fantasy thrill ride and quiet literary piece all rolled into one.
You’d be hard pressed to come up with a better read.
Plot - 9
Characters - 10
Voice - 10
Execution - 8
Personal Enjoyment – 9
Overall – 46/50 (4.6/5)
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