Wolf at the Door opens with the return of Jan Xu’s sister, Marianne, who has been abroad studying law. There was conflict between the sisters when Marianne left, and that conflict has survived their years apart. Marianne brings with her a boyfriend who is more, and less, than he seems, and he settles into day to day life with alarming ease. Jan Xu will need to fight fiercely to protect her pack, her territory, and her friends…while trying to figure out exactly what she is protecting them against.
I had three main thoughts as I was reading Wolf at the Door.
One- This is some of the most elegant prose I have ever run across
Two- This has taken an urban fantasy element I was completely done with, the werewolf, and turned it into something feral and fierce and perfect.
Three- How hard is it going to be to beg more of this from the author?
For the first thought- Wolf at the Door reads like poetry, without running into the structure issues that plague some of the more experimental prose-aware writing out there. It always adds something to a book for me when I can enjoy the writing as much as the story itself. It didn’t feel forced- this was some innately talented word-smithing. Beyond the form itself, the writing style lends itself rather perfectly to the setting and story. It all just works. The rich setting, the regal characters, the elegant prose. It all weaves together into a wonderful whole.
For the second thought, and this is the very important one, I started reading expecting werewolves. Wow, was I wrong. Wolf at the Door takes the reader back to the stories of Animal People. The characters aren’t humans who happen to turn into wolves, or even wolves that turn into people. They are just wolves. Wolves adapting and adjusting to the modern age to ensure their survival. That having been understood, it makes all of the other myths and legends casually wandering through the book seem so much more fitting. This isn’t quite urban fantasy as we have all grown to understand it- this is something more primal. And it has made me interested again in the wolf aspect of the genre, no small feat in itself. If, like me, you have read far too many urban fantasies with werewolves thrown in, and have grown tired of the concept, please do pick up this book. It revitalizes the concept.
For the third thought, and this is the one that is hard for me to admit as I have a strong and vocal love of stand-alone novels in a genre riddled with endless epics, I want more. Granted, the book stands well as a novel. It works. But…I am enthralled by the characters, the setting, the idea itself, and I want to read more. I want to get caught up in the culture of the Lang, to spend more time with Jan Xu and her friends, and that is the greatest compliment I can pay the book.
For the little things- if you like your prose nice and linear, you may struggle a bit as Jan Xu moves through things that have happened previously in a way that alternates between daydream and night terror. Her past colors the events of the present, and every now and then the line between what is happening and what she is remembering is a bit hazy. The first time it happened, I was a bit thrown off as a reader, but it settles in and starts to make sense as you move through the book. It is also a short book. Short, but very satisfying.
All said, it is a beautifully crafted book that is so different from anything else I have run into in the urban fantasy genre I cannot recommend it highly enough. The world of the Lang is a fascinating and frightening place. I hope you choose to wander through!