Britain is at war with Rome; in the middle a young seeress and a werewolf...
Browne makes the past come alive in this retelling of the story of our revolution against our would-be Roman conquerors; based on the historical figure of Caratacus: the King and born leader, who attempted to bring the various tribes of Britain, come together against the Roman invasion. Whilst he was ultimately handed over to the Romans, he was infamously spared from the usual death sentence owing to some rather brilliant oratory skills. Who says we Brits can’t be just as charming as our European counterparts?
In Wolf Blood, the focus is on a young seeress and warrior of the Brigante tribe, Trista. Her story begins as a prisoner of war, held captive by a rival tribe after the slaughter of her clan. All but broken, her second sight warns her of impending catastrophe and she decides to escape. When she stumbles across two Roman soldiers, evidently part of a scouting group; she curses her misfortune. But it seems the old Gods are guiding Trista’s fate. One of the soldiers, Morcante, is part Kelt. He is also a werewolf (although the term here hardly seems fitting for some reason); Trista sees the spectral wolf shadowing the man. Neither knows it, but their meeting sets in motion a chain of events that will impact the war and the shape of the future Britain itself.
Eerily reminiscent of Jackson’sClaudius; (but infinitely better written) there is a frisson of familiarity to the story. Written from the perspectives of both Trista and Morcante, Wolf’s Blood offers a clever device for the author to emphasise Morcante’s descent into the beast; his words becoming uncomfortable, laborious and cumbersome - in their place is the unmistakable tang of earth and sky – the world according to the wolf’s eyes and nose. Conversely, Trista’s narrative becomes increasingly purposeful, self-assured and yet more resigned to her unknown destiny as she begins to accept her fate.
Wolf Blood is a tale thick with British lore (Druids, the ‘Wild Weird’, etc.), tainted with loss and heartache, steeped in an improbable relationship between wolf and man and invocative of patriotic pride; Browne has constructed a brilliant, heart-stopping, gut-wrenching and utterly absorbing story that whilst it suffers from unanswered questions about Trista and Morcante, this lack only serves to demand a sequel. This doesn’t deserve to be a standalone novel – there is far more to Trista and Morcante… we want the answers.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012