Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: The Last Words of Will Wolfkin

Title: The Last Words of Will Wolfkin
Author: Steven Knight
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3

The Last Words of Will Wolfkin is the story of Toby Walsgrove, a boy who has been paralyzed since birth, unable to move or speak or smile; fully dependent on the care given to him by the nuns of a London convent. His closest companion is cat named Shipley, who enters his dreams and takes him on to magical adventures, battling fierce enemies on the distant moon. For Toby, this is his only freedom.

Then Shipley starts talking to him, offering Toby the chance to make his dreams a reality, if only Toby will come with him to the hidden world of the Fel. Because, see, Toby is the descendent of their last great king and, despite being human, his ancestor’s will gives him claim to the throne of a magical realm buried deep inside a glacier.

In his adventure, Toby meets a girl named Emma who has also been brought to this strange new world of magic and shape-shifting, where nothing is as it seems and one must always expect the unexpected—a place where people want kill them. Together, and with the aid of those Fel loyal to the late King Wolfkin, they must brave the dangers, the magic, and a battle to the death at the Swearing of the Oaths.

The Last Words of Will Wolfkin, by Steven Knight, is a fascinating story filled with magic and mystery and friendship. Its lighthearted manner mixes with the darkened chaos of a world filled with magical exiles.

I have two problems with this book. One, language. Although nothing too obscene, several foul words are employed in the writing, and none of them are at all necessary—they don’t even come at times when something is wrong or serious, but usually pop up in the realm of a joke.

My second problem is that the type of ‘magic’ used (a thing called Jerlamar) becomes more of a sentient being than a tool. This magic is like a mystic spirit. And, although it is interrupted, there is one point in the book where a character is seen in a state of worship before a symbol of this mystical power. Quote: “Forgive me—it is traditional when passing the volcano to give thanks to the Jerlamar,” Egil said, and he stepped a few yards away from us and fell to one knee, staring in the direction of the volcano. This and other hints at the spirit-like Jerlamar gave a rather mystic ring to the whole story. Although a fantasy, there were several places where the mentions of the Jerlamar and the types of power it gave resembled spiritualist legends, with each character having a ‘kin creature’ into whose form they could shift.

I must say I was a bit disappointed in the main villain, for all the tension that was created building up to the point where the reader meets him. To use an old phrase, the descriptions of his character seemed to be ‘larger than life’. There was nothing inherently wrong with the villain, a man who thirsted for power and kingship and would turn on anyone standing in his way. But he just seemed, well, half-formed and the description I just gave is about as deep as any offered in the story.

Story-wise, I enjoyed the book. As I already mentioned, it blended suspense and humor quite well, especially with the character named Egil. With both friendship and betrayal threading through the whole, it was a pleasurable romp in a land of ice, gold, and volcanoes. A twisting, winding plot served to keep me guessing—which might not be saying much as I rarely have a book figured out by the time the twist comes—and a bitter-sweet ending took me by surprise.

My opinion of this book is that I enjoyed reading it…and that’s all. A fairly decent book with mostly thoughtful storytelling and a good amount of depth, I liked The Last Words of Will Wolfkin. It is not, however, a book I plan to reread or one that I would recommend to others.

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