I’ve got a delightful surprise! Besides my return to posting…anything.
A sequel to A Bloody Habit! I’ve been rereading A Bloody Habit during spooky season, because it’s simply perfect for it, and to my surprise Amazon coughed up its recently released sequel, Brother Wolf, which I promptly read.
Brother Wolf occurs in the same universe, though the only returning character is the delightful Father Thomas Edmund Gilroy. As the title suggests, this book deals with werewolves instead of vampires.
Well…there are werewolves. They are the most common physical danger in the book, but it doesn’t focus on them the same way as A Bloody Habit did with vampires. The real hazard here is witchcraft, which the werewolves are a symptom of. This is one of those things I’ve noticed crosses cultures; monstrous shapeshifters are witches in Navajo traditions and my recollection is that this is true of several other North American tribes as well (I refuse to lump these diverse cultures into one group; it seems rude as they’re very different from each other).
I found the lack of focus on werewolves disappointing in a weird way, though part of the reason is probably because the werewolf got complicated in culture. They’re mixed good guys and bad guys in culture-for me, I tend to cast them as regular, often good, people. One of the short stories my collection Valor is about a werewolf family. This might have to do with the fact that I am writing this with a domesticated wolf cuddled up next to me on my couch, snoring. Wolves can be dangerous, but they’re also just animals and the dog is such a huge positive part of human development that I think it’s very hard for the man-wolf to be seen the same way we see the totally fantastic and monstrous vampire.
Look at me, talking like the main character and narrator Athene Howard. Athene is the daughter of an academic jerk. The book does a good job with that relationship and how muddled it is from Athene’s end. I’ll say I don’t enjoy Athene as a character as much as Jack Kemp from the previous book. Jack went through his book pretty much screaming “I AM NOT A SUPERSTITIUOUS ROMANTIC! I AM A RATIONAL SOBER ENGLISHMAN!” even though he was a superstitious romantic of the highest order. Athene is a romantic through and through, though not a silly one. People see her that way initially partly because she’s lived her life playing secretary to her father and isn’t very good with people.
Athene is the reason a boy would probably not enjoy this book as much as the previous one. She’s a very good depiction of a certain kind of young woman, and not a weak one, but she’s a sort of darker, Gothic take on Belle from the animated Beauty and the Beast, though she leans hard into the Elisabeth Bennet type, too. Jack is just going to work better for boys, that’s how it is. It was hard to see her getting abuse after abuse at the start of the book, though it does turn around.
The plot is a nice juicy mystical conspiracy theory, though I think it could have used a little bit more clue-laying and some build-up moments. The encounters with the Big Bad are really excellently done and of course Father Gilroy is a delight as are the Brothers. The climax is really good.
Still, I do wish more had been done with the werewolf aspect. The Franciscans are the order who handles werewolves, while the Dominicans handle vampires and undead, and the reason for this is, I’m sure, St. Francis and the wolf. I’d have liked to see more done with that or the “Hounds of God” folktale stemming from Thiess of Kaltenbrun, the Livonian werewolf. The theological idea behind the werewolves in this universe means such things kind of don’t work- they’re a descent into beastial vices of flesh and violence, driven to the transformation by witchcraft- but the last book hit the vampire folklore hard, alright? Also I like dogs. Really, I just like dogs, I guess.
The romance aspect also is a bit perfunctory though you’ll see it coming a mile away. I think it was definitely going for a Elizabeth and Darcy type couple and it could have used one or two more interactions to build it properly. It comes together well during the climax.
While I don’t think Brother Wolf is as good as a A Bloody Habit, it’s a good sequel and if you read the first one, you should definitely read this one. I do want more! What I really, really want is to see Father Gilroy and/or his compatriots lay the metaphysical beatdown on Cthulhu because I have not yet seen that done and it needs to be done. Lovecraftian cosmic horrors go tediously unopposed by our side in fiction and I think Father Gilroy’s joyous and punny approach to life would be a good contrast with the always super serious Lovecraftian cultists. However, thematically, a story that owes a lot of Frankenstein would a be a good fit.