Describing this book is hard. The underlying plot is a war of ascendency in an ancient clan of werewolves, set in modern Great Britain. It is not a comedy, but often funny, and completely absurd. Most of the book involves the politicking between two brothers involved in gaining the votes for a new Thane, but the moving parts involved include alcoholic werewolves, fashion obsessed fire elementals, a guild of werewolf hunters, and two college students who get caught up in all of it.
As I am a fan I am going to start the review with reasons a person may not like it, before I move on to all the reasons it is one of my favorites. To start with, my copy has 235 chapters, at 560 pages, do the math. Rapid fire doesn’t begin to cover it, not only are chapters short, but the author can use three paragraphs to focus on three characters in three different cities. While the book isn’t “silly,” many aspects of it are completely absurd. While the pieces fit, Millar isn’t Tolkien, and building the back story isn’t his focus(at one time why her cloths are gone in werewolf form and back in human form, the title character replies “I don’t know”). Lastly, part of the rapid fire pace results in points being hammered repeatedly. You will know that Kalix is lonely, college boy Danial is shy, and various characters are very beautiful, and you will be reminded of the fact often.
But if you can handle the unique style, then you may find a surprisingly great book. While revolving around the title character, Kalix, the cast of characters is huge for the book size. The rapid fire switching of viewpoints keeps the book from every becoming bloated, each chapter advances one(or more) of the many side stories that will eventually bring the main plot together. The shear number of plot lines Millar is pushing is huge, but the most amazing part is as a reader, I never felt lost. I knew what each character was doing, who they were sided with, and I never had to back up to past pages to remind myself of anything. Even more impressive, despite several rereads I have still not found a side plot that wasn’t in some way resolved, and almost every named character mentioned in some ways advanced the main plot-line.
Characters were great. While not every character was likable, all were entertaining. Most books have one PoV that readers dread seeing. Perhaps the fact that I never had to spend more than a page at a time with a character had something to do with it, but I truly enjoyed learning what was happening to every major player. The fashion obsessed fire elemental(who looks like a super model and acts like a child) was a particular high light. Moonglow, one of the college students, has a sweetness and kind heart that is infectious. I defy someone to not have sympathy for the other college student, Danial.
The book had the right amount of humor. It is a serious story (bands called Yum Yum Suguary Snacks aside), but i was chuckling throughout. It also has the right amount of violence. Despite a war being fought, there is not lingering on the ins and outs of battles or even particular fights. The set up and aftermath is more important than details of who did what to who.
Lastly, despite leaving enough open for a potential sequel(which eventually came), the book reached a true conclusion. Some may think the final showdown ended abruptly, but there was almost nothing about it that wasn’t foreshadowed subtlety throughout the rest the book.
Pros: Well crafted, and the handling of plot-lines is among the best I have seen. Humorous and believable despite the absurdity of some situations.
Cons: Some dialog rings false. Every single character is a true beauty, male and female. Really? Not one unattractive werewolf?
5 stars, a personal favorite.