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Dispatch from the Freewilds Book Review: Wolves of Adalore by Morgan Gauthier

(This review was originally written on October 25, 2021)

Dispatch from the Freewilds

Book Review

Wolves of Adalore

by Morgan Gauthier

The Gist:

A tale of strife and mournful treachery, Wolves of Adalore tells a tale of familial strife and mournful treachery, exemplifying the adage of power’s absolute corruptive influence. It is a dark, often bleak story following a young heroine predestined to seek vengeance against her own flesh and blood. This author does not coddle her readers, but challenges them to face her heroes’ harrowing ordeals.

The Book:

Written by Morgan Gauthier, Wolves of Adalore is the first volume of a series called the Mark of the Hunter, named for a prophesied burden fating the heroine, Salome, to confront the one greatest source of pain and woe beleaguering her family’s dreadful past… her own sister, Niabi. Written in a vastly palatable style and paced in such a way that readers will always be drawn to read that one, next, tantalizing chapter, Wolves of Adalore is filled with depth and often intense detail, pivoting quite deftly between action, suspense, drama and intrigue. As an introduction to a larger story, this book is an example of what writers should strive for.

The Plot:

Blood has been spilled. Lives have been destroyed. One ambitious young woman sought power and prestige, unafraid to embrace the growing darkness within herself. Heartless in the extreme, Niabi would stop at nothing to achieve her grandest desires. Her family constituted a threat to her success. There was a potential for greatness within each of them, a bright glowing light, and she would snuff them all out just to make her own light all the brighter.

Long after the devastating betrayal of their elder sister, Salome and Crispin survived by their own wits, cunning and tenacity, but not without the help of several others along the way. While Crispin is eager to avenge himself and his family, Salome has developed an aversion to the burdens of her family legacy. While not precisely content with life as it was, Salome was not as motivated as her brother to seek retribution or claim their stolen birthright.

Fate chooses its own champions, however, and when the Mark of the Hunter manifests upon Salome, despite her reservations and initial reluctance, she rises to the occasion. This is the story of a family asunder, of a too-oft cruel destiny unfolding before Salome and Crispin, and of the many souls they meet during their long and harrowing journey.

The Critique:

Let me begin by making it clear that this is a great book. I have some critiques below that might lead you to believe otherwise, but I want to ensure you that I enjoyed reading this story and I am a day-one buyer when Book 2 of the Mark of the Hunter series finally gets released.

That said, this was one of several books I waited to read until after I finished writing my own debut novel, Freewilds – The Cult & the Constable. I set this book aside because I did not want to risk the possibility of drawing any inadvertent inspiration. I had the same issues with reading H.C. Newell’s Curse of the Fallen, and for similar reasons. I am glad I waited to dig into Wolves of Adalore.

There are quite a few parallels, here, and I can learn from what author Morgan Gauthier was able to achieve in this briskly-paced tome.

The pace is probably my biggest critique. There is a lot of ground to cover, a lot of characters and concepts to introduce, and at times it seems as if this book could have benefitted from a hundred more pages just to give the world and its characters and ideas room to breathe and soak in. I believe these characters and relate to their feelings, speaking to the ability that Gauthier has to evoke genuine attachment and emotion in her writing. I want Salome to succeed, and I want Crispin to taste sweet victory. This book leaves me wanting for more, and that is a great thing when it is part of a series.

I do wish I had held off until there was already a Book 2 to dig into, because there is a huge sense of unfinished business as you reach the end of Wolves of Adalore. Blame the Netflix effect, binge-watching episodes of a TV show rather than waiting until the next episode airs to get, if not closure, then at least some sense of continuity. I want to maintain this level of devotion to Salome and her struggles. I hope that Morgan Gauthier is able to strike while the iron is hot and get us a new volume of her series, soon.

The Verdict:

This is a great book. That said, it is great in part because it is the beginning of something destined to be even greater. I am glad I picked this up, elated to have had a chance to read it, and proud to have the opportunity to write this review of Wolves of Adalore. I believe it could have been a bit longer, considering how dense and packed with ideas, characters, and worldbuilding this book is.

I also think that some sort of an extended epilogue might have helped to ease the pain of finishing the book. It leaves off with a great line, a defiant challenge, but I can’t help but want to see what happens next, and I wish there was a Book 2, or some sort of a short-form story to tide me over until the follow-up to Wolves of Adalore is made available to us all.

The Rating:

On a scale of 1-5, I feel confident Wolves of Adalore earns a FOUR OUT OF FIVE with room to spare. If the scale goes up to 1-10, it is an EIGHT OUT OF TEN, but it is edging toward a 9. If you are a fan of fantasy, and most especially if you like stories about prophesied heroes and destined rivalries, this gets a solid recommendation from me.

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