Book Review: Wolfsong by T. J. Klune

 

Wolfsong, by T. J. Klune

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

Wolfsong is a truly remarkable book. Although I found it through the m/m romance genre, it is so much more than that – if anything, I would place it more in the modern fantasy category. It’s an epic story with werewolves, but also the story of an enduring relationship and friendship.

Klune skillfully employs some great world-building here, not only basing some of the ideas on traditional werewolf lore, but also introducing new concepts that explore what it means to be human or wolf, family or pack, and what it means to be Alpha. The ideas are solid and well-thought-out. I am left wanting to know so much more about this world and the Bennett family.

With this setting as a backdrop, the author explores themes of family, belonging, and loss, but most importantly the concept of choice – when you have a choice, when you do not, and what the ramifications of those choices can be. Sometimes we find that we make the wrong choices in life, but once they are made, you have to live with that. These themes are interwoven into the narrative with frequent callbacks to earlier conversations and events that make the book a tightly-woven tapestry.

I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out why this book struck so viscerally, why the climactic scenes had me caught up in the excitement, why the heartfelt moments moved me to tears (multiple times!). The author has a talent for characterization, for one. The main characters are believable and three-dimensional. They can be intelligent and wise, but they can do stupid stuff, too. We start off seeing Ox as a shy, slow boy who feels his father’s scorn, but we learn that he is so much more, and capable of so much more. Watching this evolution engages the reader and you find yourself cheering them on, though also being disappointed when poor choices are made as well.

From a literary construction standpoint, Klune’s writing is fascinating to read. Ox’s story starts with short, simple statements, but as we learn more about who he is and as Ox matures into a man, the writing gets more complex. Repetition of certain phrases throughout the book ties the story together and invite the reader to compare the characters now versus where they were earlier in the story. Best of all is the dialogue, spoken and unspoken. The banter is funny and smart, and the characters speak like you, your family, and friends might. It’s believable and makes the reader a part of the story. The unspoken dialogue (an oxymoron, I suppose) is  excellent as well, showing communication through the wolves and the pack, often more emotions than words.

This is hands-down the best book that I have read this year, and in fact in many years. I rate it 5 out of 5. If you like stories of werewolves, of modern fantasy, or of an enduring romance, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

(Note: this book does contain a few scenes with descriptions of sexual contact between adult males. If this freaks you out…what the hell are you doing reading this, anyway?)