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Werewolf Prime

The main problem with Inner City transmogrification
What makes a great werewolf story? Interesting question. Most vampire tales find an audience immediately -- vampire fiction always finds an audience, regardless of the quality of the work. But the werewolf genre seems to be more hit or miss affair.

A few years ago, a buzz started that werewolves would be the next big thing. Anne Rice's sister, Alice Borchardt, trying her best to follow in her sister's footsteps, launched a fantasy series featuring historic weres. Considering Rice's overwrought writing and latter-day refusal to use an editor (Memnoch the Devil made me so sad), one can't help but wonder how much commercialism played a role in Borchardt's literary decision.

I read Borchardt's first two books, The Silver Wolf and Night of the Wolf, not knowing her relationship to Rice. Looking back on the two books, I honestly can't recall anything about them, other than they centered around werewolves. Her third book in the series, The Wolf King, sits on my bookshelf waiting to be read. But I feel no urgency to start.

Then I found the wonderful world of Laurell K. Hamilton -- another series that started off with a bang and whimpered itself into a pile of sticky goo. Recently, Anita Blake's kick-ass-and-take-names tough girl feels more like Supernatural Orgy Barbie, ready to shag anything male. But in her first few books, Hamilton's vampires came across as elegantly cool, while the were-animals provided a fun twist.

I liked that while werewolves seemed more prominent (her boyfriend Richard tried to deny his werewolf nature) she also added wererats and wereleopards. But what appealed to me most seemed to be that the characters actually possessed personality -- something that Borchardt's werewolves lacked.

Which brings me to my latest reading binge, Susan Krinard. Somewhere along the way (most likely a combination of my previous job and Crescent Blues review copies) I acquired three of Krinard's werewolf romances. All three tied together -- the heroine of the second novel began as the sister of the first one's hero, while the hero of the third turned out to be the long lost brother of the first novel's heroine. (Confused yet? Me too.) But related stories really tickle my fancy. I enjoy reading a story where the author breathes life to everyone involved, not just the hero and heroine. Secondary characters should be more than just set decoration, so when I find a whole book centered around a former secondary character, I'm all for it.

But what really appeals to me about Krinard's werewolf books centers around the soul with which she imbues her characters. She gives her characters flaws, and the flaws give the characters their soul. In so many romances, the lead characters seem absolutely flawless. Oh, they might possess a small problem -- being from differing social classes, a minor social faux pas in the past, whatever. Not Krinard's characters. Whoever heard of a blind werewolf, or one confined to a wheelchair? That both surprised and endeared them to me. And who wouldn't find it absolutely heartwarming to read on and find out that love does win after all, even when facing these huge obstacles.

For me, what makes the difference between a mediocre book and an absolutely fantastic book is the characters. If I don't care about the characters, I don't care about the plot, the action or what ultimately happens to the characters. And that's what separates Anne Borchardt's werewolves from Susan Krinard's. Krinard's feel like people I could get to know and be good friends with, while Borchardt's remain forever distant.

Jen Foote

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Click here to read Jen Foote's review of Susan Krinard's Touch of the Wolf.

Click here to read Jen Foote's review of Susan Krinard's To Catch a Wolf.

Click here for the Crescent Blues interview with Susan Krinard.