Way back in the 1980s I, like millions of others, was fascinated by Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series of books. They were meticulously researched and a fascinating, fictionalised, view of early human societies in prehistoric Europe. Oh, and the odd raunchy scene didn’t hurt, obviously. Ask me now though and I’ll say I enjoyed them for their plausible depiction of the rituals and hunting practices of Cro-Magnon man…
One area that Jean Auel explored in this series was that of totem animals – the heroine’s totem animal was the cave bear – and their links to shamanic religion. Which seems to be a much more serious aspect of all those ‘which animal are you really’ quizzes on Buzzfeed and the like – and this is what the basis of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Tiger & the Wolf boils down to. I’ve not previously read any of Adrian’s books but, rather oddly, we do have mutual friends. To be honest, given his background as a Leeds-based author, his law connections and experiences of role-playing (both tabletop and live action) I’m actually more surprised that we haven’t met. (I’d better add him to my wish-list of authors to try and persuade to do events in the bookshop…)
This book, which is firmly in the fantasy camp, seems to be a slight change of pace from his usual sci-fi novels but, to be honest, I personally prefer fantasy as a genre. And I did enjoy the fantasy, shape-shifting aspects of the story – particularly since it seemed to be explained consistently in the book’s own rationalisation of itself. I do love a well thought-out, self-consistent, fictional world.
I liked the character development too, with the heroine Maniye learning not only to deal with the potentially fatal problem of having two totems battling within her but also coming to terms with her bullying father. The two narratives, Maniye’s and that of the southerner Asmander, gradually move closer together until a dramatic final battle scene. I did wonder if we would have some kind of romance developing between these two but luckily this was avoided. I do enjoy a good love story but it would have been rather out of place here. This is, apparantly, the first part of a trilogy so maybe – when the fighting calms down – this will be explored further in a later novel.
P.S. The jacket of this book is beautiful. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I feel I shall be stroking this whenever I pass by a copy.