** WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD **
It’s difficult to know quite what to make of this book, Wolfhound Century; there’s a lot going on, in a number of different genres. This reads as a Russian, Cold War espionage, political thriller, set in an alternate world (or alternate history), with armored extra-terrestrials considered angels. Yeah … it’s that strange. But in this case, you can interpret ‘strange’ as simply meaning ‘different.’
The story: Investigator Vissarion Lom has been asked by his superior to investigate Josef Kantor — off the books, so to speak. Lom is to report only to Under Secretary Krogh of the Ministry of Vlast Security. What Lom doesn’t understand, until too late, is that there is a power struggle going on within the Ministry of Security, and Lom is a pawn in the larger battle.
Lom finds Kantor but also Kantor’s daughter, Maroussia Shaumian, who appears to be an unknown, but highly important, variable in all that is going on.
There’s definitely a strong sense of cat-and-mouse investigating going on, complete with role-reversals, and tough guy torture. And while Lom may have been selected for the mission more for his allegiance than his skill, he proves to be a survivor, and tireless in goals.
Kantor wants to destroy a world, and with his charisma, he’s managed to stir up a lot of people. But what world is he out to destroy? Lom gets a peek at an alternate city within his city — almost like shadows, though he notices buildings missing, or buildings now where there were none before. Kantor understands, and with help from the fallen angel in the woods who speaks to him, he hopes to destroy this shadow world. Lom is acquainted with the angels as well, he wears a small stone fragment of an angel in his forehead, which may be what’s giving him the power to see beyond the normal world.
Author Peter Higgins weaves a tight tapestry of events, and teases the reader often. We might think we’re reading a standard espionage novel, until he throws in talks of fallen angels and shadow realms. None of these things are explained, which keeps the reader biting for more, but at the same time, it tempts without reward. The book is divided in to two parts. The first part, which takes up nearly three quarters of the book, is a clear espionage thriller with bits of fantasy and romance sprinkled throughout. The second part becomes a dark, twisted fantasy that calls to mind early speculative fiction writers such a J.G.Ballard, Thomas Disch, and Philip K. Dick.
It is engaging, and engrossing. Higgins writes extremely well, and created a world that is sharp and detailed, which is not at all easy to do. Most of his characters are not equally clear, but then there are only three who are important to the story and maybe three others who have significant roles. But the portions of the book that are most interesting, those that touch on the subject of angels, or the giants, or the multi-layered worlds … remain murky all the way to the end of the book. Clearly we’re being set up for a large story of epic proportions, which is fine, except it leaves this book as less than fully satisfying.
Yes, I am very keen to read the next book. No, as a book (beginning, middle, and end), it is incomplete.
Looking for a good book? Strong writing in a world that is a little different make this a compelling science fiction/fantasy read, but it lacks resolution.
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author: Peter Higgins
series: Wolfhound Century #1
hardcover, 303 pages