My first read of 2019 and I’m already prepared to earmark it a spot on my best of 2019 list! I picked this book up because Kate Elliott is coming to a local convention (and by local I mean on the other side of the country) as a guest of honour in June, and I wanted to have read a copy before I attended.
If you haven’t already guessed, I really loved Black Wolves. Looking at the size of the book, it’s quite a daunting read. At almost 800 pages, it’s a huge book, but it has an epic, all-encompassing scope which I really enjoyed. Events in the book span over 60 years, and have some of the best time skips I’ve read. There are so many amazing things going on that cutting it down would’ve been a travesty, and I was wishing it wouldn’t end.
The start of the book is very interestingly done. It starts off following a young Kellas, a member of the Black Wolves, the king’s elite soldiers, and then it jumps forward 50-odd years and the story really kicks off. Kellas is in his 80s and in exile, events from early on in the book have very real consequences in the events 50 years on. If someone had told me there would be a 50-year time skip I would probably have told them it wouldn’t work, but Elliott really pulls off her time shifts. Characters and events from those early chapters are still relevant later on in the book, despite the passage of time, and while it took me a while to mentally shift from the time change, I was glad to have read the earlier part as it really enhanced the later story. Even in his 80s, Kellas still has his martial skills and is a fantastic character to follow, other characters from 50 years ago are still there and major parts of the story.
The characters are really well done throughout the book, you can clearly see their motivations, thoughts, and flaws. There were several characters I really loved and wanted to see thrive, and a few I really loathed. In a way, it has a bit of a Game of Thrones feel to it, with a scale from good to evil and you can’t always place where the characters sit on the scale or what course of action is right or wrong. I really loved that about this book, it’s a wild ride and all you can do is hold on and hope for the best for the characters you love.
The setting is quite unique and wonderful too. There are giant eagles which bond with people and operate (with their bonded) as scouts for the kingdom. There are demons which used to walk the land but have basically vanished, occasionally appearing again. There’s a whole world built on non-European culture and technology. There is intrigue and complexity in the world and the characters. There are hints of magic and other subtleties of things happening throughout the wider world too.
This book has so much character, it’s unique, complex, emotional, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I wanted to cheer for some characters and I wanted to punch others in the face.
Overall, Black Wolves was a fantastic book and I can’t wait to meet the author in June (Continuum Convention in Melbourne Australia, if anyone was curious). I highly recommend this to people who enjoy:
- Epic Fantasy
- Non-European Settings
- Older Protagonists
- Multiple POVs
- Political Intrigue
- Gender Politics