book reviews by Althea

The Tempering of Men – Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear **

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(Wolves, #2)

I feel a bit bad giving this a less-than-great review, because I kind of didn’t expect to love it: I read the previous volume, A Companion to Wolves, and wasn’t captivated – perhaps it was unfair of me to read this at all. However, I love absolutely everything else that Sarah Monette has ever written, and read this out of a tendency toward completism. (I find Bear hit-or-miss.)

Now, believe-you-me, I am all in favor of gay Vikings. I’m not opposed to psychic-companion-animals. It’s just that these characters and this scenario really didn’t come together for me. The characters didn’t feel distinct from one another. And, unfortunately, I found this sequel even more unsatisfying than the previous book.

If you really, really loved the first book and just really want to know what happens to the characters next, you may like it. Because this book is ‘what happens to the characters next.’ Some stuff happens. Some nearly completely random stuff, which does not actually come together to form a plot. The wolfthreat wonders what to do now that trolls are defeated. A bear attacks a village. Romans show up, and are threatening. A wolf goes into heat and the situation must be dealt with. A bit of politicking and power struggling occurs. The various incidents related feel episodic and disjointed – I enjoyed the one about getting lost in a cave and discovering the cave-elves, but it didn’t tie in, dramatically, with other events . There’re a couple of sex scenes that felt very tacked-on, and didn’t flow into the rest of the writing.


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