The story goes that there are two wolves living inside us. One is good, encouraging us to do honourable things and work for a better future. The other is bad, encouraging us to work for the selfish urges and our own future. The wolf that wins is the wolf you feed. Under dire circumstances, which wolf would you feed? That is the question examined by P.A. Sheppard in his book The Wolf We Feed.
This book is a mix of historical fantasy and fantasy adventure. It follows two twins, Drake and Tirith as they take different paths in life. They have both been raised in relative isolation by their grandfather, a man as mysterious as the worlds that surround them. They have learned how to fight and how to survive, emboldened by the promise that they will meet their father when they are ready. Drake and Tirith, though, go different directions. Drake leaves to the city to go and find his own path. There, he meets people connected to his path and fights for power and influence in a world of danger. Tirith goes to find her people in the mountains, learning about the secrets in her family’s past and also her role in the future. When Drake and Tirith meet again, though, things are not going to be as they were.
In some ways, this story followed many of the tropes for this genre. It was a coming-of-age novel that dealt with fantasy adventure and historical fantasy. Therefore, you expect certain things. However, this story was much deeper than your typical novel of the same sort of genre. There were ideas explored that did not quite seem to fit the normal tropes. The details that made up these characters’ lives were really well described and made the story pop. I think that these details and the amount of work put into making the story hinge on those details was what made it stand apart from other similar books. Yes, the tropes were present. Yes, you could determine what was likely to occur based on those tropes. The story moved beyond those ideas, though, and changed them into something unique.
The characters were quite nice to read. Drake and Tirith, being the main characters, were fleshed out to very thorough levels. They seemed to be almost real in their depth and I was engrossed every time I read about them. (Tirith is my favourite, simply because she’s snarky and still manages to get things done. Gotta love that.) The secondary characters, such as Bolverk, Udvir, and Tam, were also very interesting characters and definitely central to the plot, but I think they were not nearly as rounded or dynamic as Tirith and Drake. This makes sense, as the journey detailed in the book belongs to the twins, but I would have liked to see a little more depth to these characters. Mostly, though, I would like Bolverk to be a little less… confusing. He, naturally, had many secrets. The problem wasn’t the fact that he had secrets, it was the fact that he seemed to waffle between doing bad things because he was helping people and doing bad things because he was “helping” people. It’s a fine distinction, but that did cause enough problems in trying to determine Bolverk’s character that I think it mattered.
My only real critique, though, were that a few of the characters seemed to fit into stereotypical roles and fulfilled those roles simply because they were placed there by the author. This was mostly apparent in the character Beth, who was meant to be the villain. I understood that she was villainous, that descriptions of her actions had portrayed her as a villain, but I never really got the sense that she was a villain. She just seemed to be entitled. It felt a little too “moustache twirly” for my tastes. However, the impressive characterisation of Tirith and Drake really countered that and I think overall, the characters were quite well done.
As far as story goes, I really enjoyed the adventure. I think it was well paced and ended in such a way that had me interested in the next arc without absolutely demanding my attention by means of an impossibly annoying cliffhanger. Not that this story didn’t have a cliffhanger, just that it was freely open to interpretation and made the transition for book two smooth. (Not that impossibly annoying cliffhangers are bad, either, just… impossibly annoying.)
The Wolf We Feed is a good fantasy adventure with entertaining characters, a decent amount of action and trouble, and a couple of explosions that really made things quite interesting. I would say that this book stands above many of the others in its genre and that I would recommend it to potential readers. It was great fun to read and I really did enjoy it. Ready for book two!