Okay, so you've got these guys who are basically vikings and they've got these extra huge wolves, and each wolf bonds with one man and then they're best friends forever and can hold secret ESP conversations with each other; when the wolves mate, the wolves' human companions also have sex, and when they're not having sex they all fight trolls together. This book also features an awful lot of fake Scandinavian words and dubious consent issues.
He had a girlfriend at the beginning of the story before he left, he slept with countless women within the wolf camp, and he got a local village girl PREGNANT! (Why was all this even in a gay-themed piece of literature?) And in-between all of that he was basically getting rammed in the butt by his male peers, none of which encounters did he actually initiate or want (though it was easy for the authors to say that he got erect once it started happening, as though autonomic response truly equals desire). At one point he gets basically raped by about 7 or 8 men in rapid succession until he literally passes out, all for the good of his female wolf and their connection and so that she may get pregnant. I may have actually enjoyed it better if they had just left out all mention of sex and sexuality and talked about this world of man/wolf bonding in greater detail.
A beautiful and stark piece and an epic journey, of both the story itself and the feelings that result from it. When fell trolls, terrible tyrants, walked in winter as they willed it, and our forefathers shuddered in shallow scrapes. The brutal war with man and wolf against trolls is confronting at times, because we're reminded constantly that both sides are just trying to survive.
They defend the humans against the trolls, beings so powerful only the united forces of men and wolves can defeat them. Without being outrightly raped, Isolfr isn't entirely consensual when it comes to having sex with other men. Not one single time did Isolfr act out of character; he was entirely plausible and so were the other men - and the wolves who are personalities in their own rights. Significant for the author's skills, the wolves are just "human" enough to make it plausible for them to bond with men, but they are still animals. The story itself, with the deadly threat of the trolls forging an unlikely alliance out of men, wolves and mountain smiths (elf-like creatures of great power), was solid, well crafted fantasy, nothing new but original enough to be exciting. Not really necessary, some readers might find this disturbing (I didn't mind, but I'm a linguist, so my opinion in this doesn't exactly count) Third, the story felt open ended, particularly on Isolfr's part.
I think a lot of people have read this expecting something it really is not: comfortable LGBT fantasy romance. To that end, theres a lot of dubious consent here: the wolf-brothers relationships mirror the wolves themselves. Its not always comfortable and I dont think theres really a happy end for Isolfr. There are gay couples in the story who have a meaningful and romantic relationship, just as there are characters who dont have sex with men outside of the breeding cycles of the wolves.
A really riveting, well-thought-out book with a Nordic basic, in which boys (teens) in the culture are tithed to the wolf-brothers when there is a new litter.
I must admit, I bought this book, inspired by some hilarious reviews here on GR. That is portrayed mainly in the main character's "values" and views on the world he is in and his personal duties. If for a moment the reader wonders about a spark between him and a secondary character in the book, all hope is crushed soon enough due to conflict or just lack of interest on the protagonist's part. It just wasn't clear how being sexually used like a bitch for his wolf's benefit was "honour" for the straight main character. This isn't a book about two men falling in love, it's about one hetero man forcing himself to bend over for a bunch of guys. I honestly feel that the authors could have been more successful about why the main characters do what they do. Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and even though I didn't particularly enjoy this book (and will not be reading its sequel) you still might find more stuff appealing.
Also, there were a couple scenes depicting what some people called gang rape, and I dont necessarily agree, but Ill get into that later. They tithe to the wolfheall, and in return the warriors of the wolfheall, the men who are bonded with wolves, protect them from the northern trolls and wyverns. Part of the tithe are young boys of a certain age who are given over to the wolfheall in the hopes that one of the wolf-cubs will bond with them and theyll become wolfcarls. He finds out that when the bitch comes into her heat, hell experience what she does and the other men of the wolfheall will react the way male wolves would respond to a bitch in heat. This only goes on until the bitchs heat breaks, but this means that if the female chooses to accept 6 wolves, hell be having sex with 6 men. He can accept and submit to what it means to be bonded to a female wolf, or he can leave. When it starts out, he willingly lies down for it and hes wanting sex as much as his female wolf and the men are just responding to the urges of their counterpart wolves. I dont consider it rape or non-con sex, although Ive seen some people refer to it as dub-con (dubious consent) and I might agree with that. Sure, maybe under normal circumstances you wouldnt choose to have sex with Grimolfr, Eyjolfr, or whoever, but in this situation your wolf is doing the choosing and you have to accept it. I cant recall the times that Isolfr thought that he didnt want to be perceived as womanish because in this culture of male warriors women are the weaker sex that are supposed to cook, keep house, and breed and its the responsibility of the men folk to protect them. While I like to believe that Isolfr will eventually develop feelings for his wolfjarls, just based on some of the things he thinks, particularly about Skjaldwulf, hes still kind of distant by the end and uncomfortable with claiming either of them as his lover.
From what Ive read elsewhere, I understand that the authors conceived the book as a tongue-in-cheek, farcical look at the companion animal genre, forcing it to its logical, absurd conclusions. This is brilliant world-building, and the logical conclusion of the companion animal concept yields a more interesting story than the wish-fulfillment fantasy so often portrayed. Finally, in spite of the variety of gay and straight relationships in the story, the central relationship is always that of the wolf and the boy. _A Companion to Wolves_ is an engaging story, expertly told.
But after a while the world-building lost its charm and I wondered what the story was really about, since the central character, Isolfr, who bonds with the pup who becomes the dominant she-wolf of the pack, doesn't seem to want or need anything except the regard of his father, which he can't have because his father is horrified by the idea of the m/m sex that goes on. Towards the end of the book Isolfr is described as "cold" and that seems to be the case as he doesn't seem to bond with his human brothers, not in the same way that he's bonded with his beloved wolf.
Katherine reviews nonfiction.