Wolves is the first part of C. Gockel’s I Bring The Fire series, initially a trilogy but now extended to eight full releases and several novellas. As is usual for self-published series of this length, you can pick up this introduction to the series for free, as I did.
Wolves tells a story with many familiar elements. The main character is Loki, the trickster god of Norse Mythology. The story follows him as he’s lost on Earth, or Midgard, following the deaths of his sons and seeking revenge upon Odin and the whole of Asgard. Gockel is assisted in her worldbuilding by this use of pre-existing legend, with the characters of Loki, Thor and Odin already established knowledge for readers there isn’t too much work to be done here. I’m not claiming this is a bad thing, Neil Gaiman’s masterwork American Gods equally reuses the Norse pantheon. Gockel does well to address the commonality of knowledge of these characters, with passing mentions of the Marvel comics and films in reference to Thor. Using a character to challenge Loki directly on which parts of his legend were born in truth was also a nice touch.
The relationships between the three main characters, Loki, Amy and Beatrice, are believable and in many sections their interactions are downright funny. Loki’s mischievousness is well written and the reactions of the others to his antics feel realistic.
The plot is fast moving, exciting and occasionally veers into unexpectedly dark territory. Murder, death, rape, are all addressed in the book, but with a light touch, so as to keep the overall tone of the book firmly in light entertainment.
The clash of cultures between worlds is also explored and not just in the expected way of Loki struggling with life on Earth, the running joke of his being convinced that cars are alive was an excellent addition here and, without giving too much away, became a useful plot point towards the end of the book in a very cleverly written way. Gockel also touches on political themes, with the dichotomy between democratic and monarchic governmental systems brought up several times. I suspect that this theme will be expanded upon in the sequels, I certainly hope so.
However, Wolves is not without faults.
The writing itself feels a bit simple at times. I suspect that this is a stylistic choice by Gockel to keep the plot moving quickly, and this is most definitely a personal opinion and not objective criticism. I prefer richer language and depth of description than is present in Wolves.
Some of the political commentary that I praised above felt heavy handed. I would have preferred a more nuanced exploration of this, although there are still the sequels for more depth here.
One major narrative issue that I really disliked was the decision to have one of the main three characters absent from the climactic action. Even worse, they weren’t actually geographically absent from the events, they were simply asleep. Beatrice literally slept through the climax of the book. This came across as a lazy way to avoid having to write her into those scenes.
My final criticism is a common one in books within this context as a initial introduction to a much larger series. The author wants to leave the plot open for the sequels, and therefore leaves much of the story unresolved. This can be done well, and when it is the reader is left reaching for the next book in the series without missing a beat. This is done best when the overarching plot has moved forward within the introductory book, and challenges that the characters faced are met, overcome and fully resolved within the story. Any book, especially the first in a series, must stand alone as a self-contained narrative. On finishing the read, I felt a little bit empty. It was all a bit too open. And, when looking back over the events, nothing had actually happened in respect to Loki’s progression towards his goals.
Don’t let any of those criticisms put you off picking the book up, overall, Wolves, holds up well as an enjoyable read. The characters are interesting and rounded enough to keep you engaged, the action comes thick and fast, and the interpretations of Asgard (and the well known characters within) are fresh enough to keep it interesting. Gockle has done very well, and bearing in mind that this was originally released in 2012, I can only imagine that her writing has improved in the years since.
I’d absolutely recommend picking this up while it is still available for free and dipping your toes into Gockle’s world.