Annie Pearce runs through the streets of the city, chasing a demon, the likes she has never seen before. After finally capturing the creature, she works to find out where it comes from and how to destroy the monster. Cham Chamsky follows a lead and discovers a mystery man in the forest near where the demon was found. This is no ordinary man. He is a Viking—a man from the past—thirteen centuries in the past.
I received an ebook copy of Sheryl Steines’ new book, She Wulf, in exchange for my honest review as part of this week’s Novel Publicity whirlwind blog tour (Info on prizes you can win are below, after the review!). At first blush it looks like the story would be right up my alley. Strong female lead, demons, time-traveling vikings: I’m there.
Steines’ second book in her young adult fantasy Annie loves Cham series follows the adventures of wizards Annie Pearce and Cham Chamsky as Annie is kidnapped back into the 11th century to fulfill a prophecy and battle a race of regenerating demons bent on destroying a coven of witches and a community of Vikings living around what will become the city of York in northern England. Cham insists on finding a way to follow her back in time to help her/rescue her.
Like I said, the basic idea of this story is something that appeals to me. Time travel, when done well, is always fun, and the book containing Annie’s prophecy that the Wizard Guards (sort of a Hogwarts FBI) discover is kind of neat. It changes as things in the past change–a common trope–and the characters pass notes between the two time periods as they figure out how to proceed.
I also like one of the ancillary characters. Bega, one of the 11th century “Wiccans,” is a young girl assigned to watch over Annie as the coven prepares her for battle. She has her own motives and there’s a hint that she (or her mother) travel through time to the book’s present day at some point. I would have liked to learn more about her (them).
I would also have liked to have learned more about the Wizard Guards. My guess is that Steines did more set-up around them in the first book of the series, The Day of First Sun, but I haven’t read that one. These wizards feel like the old-school cops that you might find in the hard-boiled stories of Hammett and Chandler: their ethics are suspect as they do whatever they need to do to help Annie. The wizard Gibbs, for instance, breaks into another wizard’s store and threatens to burn the place down to get the magical books he requires. This seems a tad overdone on first blush. The wizards also have no problem torturing and generally mistreating the demons they keep in their basement prison. Steines portrays all demons as evil animals which strikes me as a tad shallow, but perhaps that’s my Whedon love coming through.
Not that I would compare Steines’ writing to Hammett’s and Chandler’s in a positive way (nor Whedon’s). Unfortunately, there are a lot of things about She Wulf that really don’t work for me. The awkwardly constructed and overly repetitious prose distracted me a lot. Fight scenes, in particular, I found confusing and had to reread several times to figure out exactly who was doing what to whom. And where I wasn’t confused, I was bored. So often, it felt like I was playing D&D with people yelling one spell after another at the DM in the hopes that something would stick. I sympathize with this problem: fight scenes can be difficult to write. They take practice, and it’s really easy to get them wrong or just not be as exciting as the writer was hoping for.
I was also frustrated by Steines’ misuse of words. For example, she declares a sword to be immune to magic but then a stronger spell easily subdues the object. That’s not how immunity works, last time I read up on the topic.
Words mean things. To spend all of chapter 7, like Steines does, having her Viking “reigning” in the “reigns” of his horse-drawn cart only leads to a lot of unintended laughter, at least in my house. And don’t get me started on the “incineration” of Bega’s feet in chapter 23. [Note: I confirmed that I received a final copy of the book, not an ARC. I would have done my best to ignore these mistakes in the latter case.]
The book also has a problem with its use of history. Now, I love alternate histories and authors who successfully fiddle with classic tales. Steines says in her acknowledgements and on her website that she was influenced to write this novel by a documentary on Beowulf that she watched.
Awesome! But then why move the tale to England? I found this puzzling, especially when she describes the Vikings actually moving to England. Not invading, but moving.
History told him that the Vikings had left Denmark at one point and moved to England…
I picture a bunch of Danish folk packing up their U-Hauls, finding a nice neighborhood in North Yorkshire, and settling down. That isn’t quite how it worked in the history books I’ve read. Peaceful relocation isn’t what the Vikings were known for. If Steines really meant to change history in that way, I would have liked to have seen a little more explanation and description of what she was going for instead of an offhand remark in a questionable history book.
Finally, on the subject of history, Wiccans. Steines labels the 11th century witches in She Wulf as Wiccans. Since Wicca didn’t actually exist until the early 20th century, I wish Steines had come up with another name for her ancient coven. Going with Wicca was just lazy, in my opinion.
In conclusion, She Wulf is not a book I would recommend. Its prose knocked me out of the story too often, and I found the main characters fairly tedious and ordinary (although she might have something with Bega/Githa). Of course, your mileage may vary. If you’re not as picky a reader as I am (although, really, I enjoy Michael Crichton books–his stuff isn’t exactly Shakespeare) and you have a thing for fantasy romances, you might like it.
Now about those prizes:
As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the She Wulf eBook edition is just 99 cents this week—and so is the price of its companion, The Day of First Sun. What’s more, by purchasing either of these books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.
All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment—easy to enter; easy to win!
To win the prizes:
- Purchase your copy of She Wulf for just 99 cents
- Purchase your copy of Day of First Sun for just 99 cents
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
- Visit today’s featured social media event
About She Wulf: Annie is sent through an ancient time portal with only a prophecy to guide her; she struggles with a new destiny as she tries to figure out a way to destroy an un-killable demon and return home. Get it on Amazon.
About The Day of First Sun: A vampire, a rogue wizard and an army of soulless zombies are par for the course for Annie Pearce and Bobby “Cham” Chamsky of the Wizard’s Guard. But when the non-magical princess, Amelie of Amborix, is murdered by magical means, a deeper plot unfolds. Get it on Amazon.
About the author: Behind the wheel of her ’66 Mustang Convertible, Sheryl is a constant surprise, using her sense of humor and relatable style make her books something everyone can enjoy. Visit Sheryl on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.