Spader (Feast of the Raven, 2016) returns to the epic of Gerwulf the Wulfhedinn in this second installment of her series.
Weeks after he was sent to investigate the cultic practices at the center of the Saxon rebellion, Gerwulf reappears in Frankish territory missing his wolf skin but sporting a giant wound on his stomach—an injury that, by the look of it, he should not have survived. Gerwulf, the half-Saxon half-Frankish Wulfhedinn (or wolf-demon), was recently the prisoner of a Saxon witch known as the Walkyrie. But the full nature of their relationship is known only to Gerwulf and the witch. Despite her efforts to convert him to the pagan Saxon cause, he is intent on remaining in the service of his Christian God and the Frankish King Karl. Now a conditional member of the Frankish aristocracy, Gerwulf is no longer interested in being a Wulfhedinn, even if the skills that come with it are the exact reasons he is a valuable servant to the king. As the war between Saxon and Frank intensifies, with oaths broken and atrocities committed on both sides, Gerwulf’s loyalty will continue to be tested: loyalty to God and king but also to his heart and soul. Familial connections to the leader of the Saxon revolt and emotional links to the Walkyrie may make it impossible for Gerwulf to remain a simple Christian soldier. In the end, as his friend Father Pyttel wonders, “can you separate the man from the wolf?” As in the previous volume, Spader’s world of eighth-century Germany is distinctive and a lot of fun, with the fantastic elements playing a supporting role to the historical ones. This novel takes some time to get going, but Gerwulf’s pathos and aspirations make him a complex enough protagonist to carry the book through its quieter moments. While many classic genre archetypes are present in the story, Spader has created a realm that feels just uncharted enough for surprises to be lurking behind every tree. Fans of Feast of the Raven should enjoy this new chapter in the Gerwulf saga.
An enjoyable historical fantasy with a conflicted hero.