Welcome, one and all, to the latest MDM book review. This time around, I’ve been reading ‘Wolf Boy’, a pre-teen book written by G.D. Sammon that’s due to be published on 23rd February 2017 by Black Rose Writing. By way of disclosure, I was able to obtain a free copy of the book in advance in exchange for a review.
The book follows the story of Connor Meredith, a young lad who is physically blind but, thanks to his ability to visualise things in his mind, can still see. To make his life that little bit more complicated, Connor is often visited by a wolf that appears in his wardrobe at night. The result of these visitations is that Connor, along with his friend Evey and a local bully named Billy Lennox, are whisked away to another world where the wolves are the dominant species. However, as dominant as they are, a threat has risen to face them. With Connor and Evey seemingly tied into an ancient prophecy, can the kids and their fuzzy companions survive?
So, you may notice some familiar elements there. The wardrobe to another world is, of course, used in The Chronicles of Narnia. You may also recognise Connor’s sight skills from an old episode of The X-Files. And prophecies? They’re common enough. Let’s be honest here though, picking up familiar threads and potential influences in a book is nothing new. If doing so here makes you have second thoughts about reading the work, I would recommend giving it some further thought. While there a bits and pieces that may make you think of other things, the overall story itself is original. Not only that, but given that the book is aimed at those just entering high school education, any similarities that crop up will likely be treated the same as references made in most modern kids’ TV shows by the target audience.
I would definitely say that that’s a good comparison to make here too. Once the key elements are in place, the story just starts moving, and doesn’t stop. From the travel to the wolf city of Lupusoplis, to the days long conflict with the antagonist, Peregrim, things just keep going without ever falling into filler territory. That is in itself the way a good TV series should be built, and having it work this way will be particularly appealing to children at an age where they want to read, but have a growing interest in non-monster-of-the-week TV shows too. Of course, to get not only this, but any audience interested enough to discover the overall quality of the piece, a book needs a strong opening. G.D. Sammon obviously realised this, because the first three paragraphs of the book do a wonderful job of creating intrigue. They may be short, but they tell you what you need to know and set up the wolf in the wardrobe concept nicely. From there, we start getting to know our main hero and his backstory, which is as fine a start as you could hope for.
Now, Connor is given plenty of screen time, as you’d expect. He’s the hero, after all. The problem here is that, being a children’s book, you’re not going to be looking at a tome the length of A Song of Ice and Fire. So, while Connor is fleshed out a fair bit, the other children, Evey and Billy, are not given quite so much time to shine. I’m not saying that they have no development or unique traits, just that they’re growth is dealt in a far swifter manner than Connor’s. In some ways, that’s a shame, because the main cast are a likeable and authentic bunch. In a way, I almost wish that there had been maybe ten or so more pages dedicated primarily to Connor’s human companions.
But what of the wolves and their world? Well, the land beyond the wardrobe becomes the primary setting relatively early on. The nature of the story means that we only see a small chunk of the land, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If anything, it means that the story maintains a solid focus throughout, and we get to learn as much as we can about the lay of the land in terms of that area. The wolves themselves are anthropomorphic, which suites me to a tee, and there’s a clear hierarchy in place for them. I would guess that this is symbolic of the pack structure of regular wolves, but we only really get to speak to a handful of the beasts. That’s fine though. Ulf, the wolf from the wardrobe, is a good addition to the cast and makes a strong guide to the world for both readers and protagonists alike. Meanwhile, the wolves’ adversaries are suitably monstrous, with some interesting hybrid creatures making up the brunt of the enemy forces. This all adds an air of mystique to the world and certainly leaves you wanting to know more.
It should be said, however, that while the book is an enjoyable romp through a new and interesting world, I did feel that it had some minor faults. For one, I spotted the final plot twist coming very early on. However, it should be be noted that that’s looking at things through the eyes of an adult accustomed to books like ‘House of leaves’ by Mark Z Danielewski. Would a younger reader spot it in the same way? That would likely vary from child to child. It doesn’t have to lower enjoyment though, as waiting to see if you’re right can be a rewarding experience. It certainly was for me, anyway.
In all though, I think that G.D. Sammon has created a very worthwhile book here. Wolf Boy is an easy read that provides plenty of entertainment, a creative fantasy world, and a small but decent main cast. It’ll keep its target audience’s attention and would also be enjoyable for adult fans of the genre. In that respect, it does exactly what it needs to.
Final Score: 4 / 5