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Relentlessly bloodthirsty but poignant fantasy story

I must admit I approached Wolf Warriors with trepidation as sword and sorcery is not usually my thing. But I was gripped from the get-go, devouring chapter after chapter in the same way I like binging on box-sets ! The story unfolds at a furious pace, and although the setting (the Dark Ages) tends to be a lesser familiar aspect of English history, the themes - good versus evil, freedom from slavery, escape from tyranny, revenge - are universally recognisable.

The characters are generally more down-to-earth than that other medieval fantasy currently dominating bookshelves and small screens (Game of Thrones). There are no opulent palaces or power struggles between rival royal families here; only bloodshed and decapitations as the native Celts are ethnically cleansed from their ancient territories by brutal AngloSaxon/English invaders. What Wolf Warriors does have in common with George R R Martin's fables is contemporary dialogue (and I would concur that expletive-laden invective is an understandable reaction to being confronted by howling wolf demons.)

A novel as relentlessly bloodthirsty as this needs a soft heart, and this is where I welcomed the heroine Kady, a young Celtic druid. Her tribulations introduce the reader to a parallel version of 6th century England, where kelpies and selkies roam, and werewolves stalk their victims through dark forests, or in one memorable scene, across stormy seas. Wolf Warriors also boasts tribal chieftains who reminded me of bawdy Hollywood Vikings, forever swigging wine and brandishing axes! But there are many far more chilling scenes - the evil Saxon necromancer Paega makes Sauron the Dark Lord seem like a librarian.

Overall, this is an entertaining page-turner, finishing on a cliff-hanger. Roll on the second instalment in the Wolfslayer series!

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