Friday, May 30, 2014

Year of the Wolf by Heather Heffner

This novel is excellent. Of all of the indie novels I have read over the last few years, Year of the Wolf is by far of the highest quality in terms of writing and story sophistication, and it's better than many traditionally published novels I've read. I am seriously impressed with Heather Heffner. The novel will please those who like vampire and werewolf stories. The interesting thing about that is I really don't get into those stories (anymore--I was really into them for a while a few years ago and had my fill) but I really enjoyed this book because of the innovative approach to the genre. I found all the aspects drawing on Korean culture fascinating. I give this novel my highest recommendation.


I do have some critiques of it, but you have to understand, these critiques are on par with critiques I would give any excellent novel, because no novel is perfect. So here we go.

First off, the story includes a subplot you see a lot of in books with werewolves: the main character, Citlalli, is a new werewolf, and the only other notable female werewolf character hates her on sight and wants to challenge her at every turn because that's what female wolves do to establish their hierarchy in the pack. I'm not a huge fan of the genre largely for this reason. I find pitting female characters against each other in this way, especially when there's additionally a male they are fighting over, really really tiresome. I wish that people would stop writing this story--it adds nothing new to the genre. And if it's not possible to write a werewolf story without revisiting this kind of conflict, why not go with a different kind of shifter? In Heffner's universe there are all sorts of shifters. The weretigers sound particularly intriguing.

Compounding the problem of the female wolf rivalry is that the rival in question is Korean. In fact, this story has several Korean characters and they are all supporting characters, yet it is set in Korea. None of them are very effective at dealing with the problems they are faced with. They need Citalli, a Mexican-American who has settled in Korea, and her love-interest, another Latino, for that. And hey, it's really cool and refreshing to see nonwhite characters throughout the book, it's one of the things that makes it so original. Still, I got the sense that even with as much knowledge as Una, a kind of shaman, had or the leading werewolf, also a Korean, had, they just weren't going to be the heroes in any way shape or form. To me, that's a problematic storyline. Not as bad as say, The Last Samurai, but it does have some similar issues.

Finally, the ending. Heffner took a big risk with the ending--it is an out-and-out cliff-hanger. No resolution at all. No satisfaction for the reader at all. IMO, you save that kind of ending for book 2. Otherwise I'm left feeling like this author is just going to mess with me. I felt that way when I read the first book in The Lying Game series. And I had no interest in buying the second book as a result. I may buy the second book in Heffner's series, Year of the Tiger; I haven't decided yet.

I do hope a lot of people read this novel, as the writing and plotting are excellent, and many people will not have the problems with it that I had. Again, I highly recommend it.

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