Review of Through Wolf’s Eyes, by Jane Lindskold

5 04 2008

This is another of the Tor books. You can still sign up and get them for free. I wasn’t planning to read it yesterday, but I clicked, and well… I was hooked. It took about fifteen hours, but I think they were well spent.

Through Wolf’s Eyes by Jane Lindskold is a truly wonderful book. It’s mainly about a young woman who has been raised by intelligent wolves since she was very young. Humans come and bring her back into society, where she gets caught up in a battle of wit and intrigue for succession of the throne. This is no easy setting for someone who believes the proper way to solve conflicts of dominance in a fight.

The book is a rare blend of real earthy sensations and high-minded court intrigue. Lindskold switches between the minds of nobles who are caught up in a conflict that means the world, and the mind of a wolf girl for whom conflicts come at a much higher price—life or death. Somehow, her perspective raises the stakes for every other character. At one point, she has to prove herself to some of the nobles, and at that moment my heart started racing, my adrenaline pumping in no way that I had ever experienced before reading any other book.

I really enjoy authors who are willing to take the risk to explore a character with a completely alien mindset. It reminds me of Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep with the sentient packs of dog-creatures. Singularly, each dog is not very remarkable, but as a pack, they have a shared mind, each animal is one limb of a greater consciousness. In Through Wolf’s Eyes, Lindskold manages to balance a human and canine mind in the same character in a way that opens a new set of eyes on what could have been otherwise a well written, but normal political intrigue plot.

There are a few major flaws with Through Wolf’s Eyes that I must call out. It suffers from the same problem that many other epic fantasy series do—that of the extensive family trees and intricate marriage situations that create such delicate political situations. As much of the book is reminders of who secondary and tertiary characters are as it is actual action.

Unlike many other fantasy books I’ve read, Lindskold solves the problem of forgetting who characters are and where their allegiances lie in a very simple manner. All her characters have last names relating to their craft: Forrester, Carter, Archer, Shield. One entire family is named after gemstones. Reading one name easily places the character into the intricate castle of cards that is the political situation. It doesn’t change the fact though that so much of the book is genealogy. This major problem I have with that is there are six books in the series. I don’t know if I can get that invested.

As with much fantasy, some aspects of the story are not entirely believable, but there are not-so-subtle hints that deep forms of magic exist in the world. While they are not explicitly called out until far into the book, they allow a further suspension of disbelief. While the wolf girl is often far wiser than one would expect, I do wish there was more time spent on her, because she is so obviously the main character. Her thoughts are refreshingly honest in explaining the unfamiliar world into which she stumbles.

I will probably read the second book, Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart, and maybe the third. The first story was thoroughly enjoyable.

This post is part of the Science Fiction Book Challenge.