“The Wolf In The Attic” by Paul Kearney

Sorry for the lack of a review on Monday. I’m in Canada, and as you may have seen from my last blog post at Miriam Joy Writes, it’s been pretty busy — plus, the time zone thing keeps catching me out. I can’t guarantee I’ll have a post up on Friday either, as I haven’t been reading much since I got here (mostly writing and sleeping).

I requested The Wolf In The Attic from NetGalley because it referenced CS Lewis and Tolkien in the blurb, and I guess that was fair enough of it, in that they appear as characters (Tolkien briefly, involving trees, and CS Lewis in a slightly more significant capacity, although you’d have to know that his nickname was Jack to notice him at first).

the wolf in the attic

Publication date: 10th May 2016

It was … an odd one. The best way to describe it is definitely ‘peculiar’. It draws on the old stories of England, and the old places — things I recognised from Carolyne Larrington’s The Land of the Green Man, which I reviewed a while back. If you like fantastical beings with confused loyalties, and stories about lies and uncertain allegiances, then this could be a book for you.

You know the sort of stories where you’ve got an inkling something’s not right or a character isn’t what they should be, but you don’t know if you’re just reading too much into something? There’s that here, and also the knowledge that things don’t add up and the stories don’t quite fit with your understanding of the world, but not knowing if that’s because they’re lies or because things are different in this version of the world.

You find yourself thinking: are the good guys the bad guys in this world? Or are the bad guys just misrepresenting them to make themselves seem like the good guys? Why are these versions of mythology or folklore the inverse of what I know, and is that deliberate? Avoiding spoilers, this was eventually cleared up, but in the meantime it was hard to tell how much was tightly plotted tension, and how much was genuine confusion, so that I felt the need to get to the end just to figure out what was going on.

And I mean that in a good way, not in a bad way, although it took me a fair while to get into this book because of the style, and because it’s quite choppy with lots of breaks between sections. By the time I was fully invested it was almost the end, and so I never really felt I had time to get to know the characters as much as I’d have liked.

On the whole, I felt it fell just short of living up to its potential. It had some gorgeous lines and complex ideas, as well as bringing in figures like CS Lewis and Tolkien, but I never quite engaged or clicked with it until it was too late.

Still, I did like the style in places. Here are some quotes I enjoyed.

It is not a wilderness; it is the opposite. A place where man has made some connection with the slow beat of the earth’s heart, carved his marks all across it in worship and wonder, and then left it alone as the reasons for his own awe have become lost and forgotten.

(This was a particularly Larrington-esque idea, and one that I love in the context of my poetry and the medieval texts I read, too.)

he is the fear in the dark, the monster under the bed. Luca is a thing out of stories.

(This was just a really nice line)

Names change, but in flesh and bone there lies a stain indelible.

(Again, I just liked this line)

I think my reference to Carolyn Larrington’s book is the key point here — this is the fiction equivalent of that. It’s a story of the old mythological places of England, and the old world too; the way stories meld with the landscape and become something odd and arcane.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, really. It’s a peculiar one. You might like it, you might not. Personally, it didn’t quite do it for me as a STORY, but as a piece of writing, it did. I liked the ideas and words, but the plot took too long to get its hooks into me.

Rating: ***

Find ‘The Wolf in the Attic’ on Amazon (UK)

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