Tuesday, May 1, 2012
On Harmony: A Review of Bonds of Fenris by S. J. Bell
Our heroine, Talia, is a woman in her early twenties who was unwillingly transformed into a werewolf. Talia hates her wolf side, which is constantly hungry and violent. She's forced to live in a shabby house with her equally shabby pack mates, hunt under the full moon every month, and avoid humans at all costs. Then Talia meets Corwin, a fellow werewolf who has complete control over his wolf side--something Talia craves above all things. To learn the same skills, Talia is forced to confront her own flaws and learn to accept herself.
This story is not, by any means, epic in it's scale. The mythology is fairly limited and narrow in scope. The cast of characters is limited to six werewolves. There are no world saving quests or grand battles. But what the story lacks in breadth, it more than makes up for in depth. The plot is surprisingly thoughtful, following the slow journey from self-loathing to acceptance and confidence. I loved that this book delved into the psychology of what it means to be a werewolf, a human being, and a survivor.
Talia was a decent, if not very memorable character. She is relate-able, and I did find myself cheering on her successes. Her romance with Corwin is understated, but respectable. Her relationship with her pack mates, particularly in her efforts to teach them to live with lycanthropy, is both interesting and emotional.
Each member of the pack is given a distinct, though simplistic, personality. Bo is dimwitted but lovable. Marline is the intellectual, somewhat cold one. And so on. Normally, I would complain about such shallowly developed characters, but honestly, it isn't really possible to fully develop six characters in 230 pages. At least they all had a few pages of self discovery.
My interest in the story was strong during the first half, but waned a bit as the story continued. The problem is, Talia's emotional journey is wrapped up pretty quickly, and the focus turns to her pack--particularly Peirce, the young self styled "alpha". Peirce was not a sympathetic character in my eyes. And no, not every character needs to be sympathetic for a book to be likable...unless the last part of your book is about that character's decent and/or redemption. Because I did not care about Peirce, I felt little tension as Talia and company tried to make him see the light.
If, like me, you are fond of werewolf books, this is a good pick. While the pacing is a little off, and the end is a bit lackluster, the overall story is captivating enough to entertain you. It's also short (223 pages), which makes it a good candidate for travel reading or a lazy afternoon. 3.5 stars.
Bonds of Fenris will be available on Smashwords on May 7!