Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins, a great Orbit (US) /Gollancz (UK) novel that will really have you enthralled.
“Very dark, very gritty and very atmospheric. Wolfhound Century is also a book free of genre constraints, allowing for a great original and entertaining read. Top Notch stuff by Peter Higgins.” ~The Founding Fields
Every so often you come across a book that is impossible to fit into a single genre, and Wolfhound Century hits that spot perfectly. It seems like a weird combination of alternate history, fantasy and the good old noir crime fiction as well – set in a world that is similar to 1940’s Russia. If you were looking for one of the most imaginative books of the year so far, then you’ve come to the right place.
Investigator Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist — and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police.
A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown insurgents with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists.
Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head.
The strongest aspect of Wolfhound Century is clearly Higgins’ worldbuilding. He’s captured a gritty world with one of the darkest tales that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and I’ve read Warhammer 40,000 fiction – the setting that first coined the term grimdark. (I think). Don’t expect any heroes here, for Higgins’ characters are well developed, three-dimensional and very interesting, and Higgins has made them feel realistic enough to fit in the totalitarian state that he has created as a backdrop, and never does a character feel like he or she shouldn’t belong.
Whilst the book has a larger cast of characters than just the man mentioned on the blurb, Investigator Vissarion Lom is the story’s key man, summoned by a high ranking police official to catch a terrorist at the bequest of the head of the secret police. Lom is a great character and he manages to carry the book through the dark corners that Higgins takes us. It becomes clear that one of the main themes in this book is fear, fear of the Secret Police, and this is one of the many reasons that helps connect Wolfhound Century to its 1940’s Russia setting. The pace is fast, and if you enjoy Wolfhound Century then you won’t be able to put it down, for the chapters are almost James Patterson-level short in places, allowing that “One More Chapter” thing to really kick in even though you know you have to get off the bus soon (If my bus stop was not the last stop on my journey, I would have missed it – I was that engrossed in Wolfhound Century), allowing for a great read.
The writing style of Peter Higgins is fantastic and if Wolfhound Century is anything to go by then I will stick around to see more of what Higgins puts out – he’s a great writer and has really captured the fact that fantasy doesn’t have to be set on a completely invented world nor in our own reality to be enjoyable – alternate history/fantasy is a much under used genre that I am now wishing to explore in more depth to see if there are other books like Wolfhound Century out there.
This could very well end up being in my list of Top 25 books of 2013, and it’s certainly going to be one of the weirdest novels that I’ve read this year – Wolfhound Century is engaging, enthralling and this is a ride that you’ll want to get on board for. Fans of noir, classic spy thrillers, and fantasy fans will want to get on board on this book and whilst its dark tone may not be for everyone It comes with a high recommendation from me.