Fa­mil­iar­ity breeds con­tent­ment

SFX - - Reviews -

re­leased 11 Fe­bru­ary 608 pages | Hard­back/ ebook

Au­thor Adrian Tchaikovsky

Pub­lisher Macmil­lan

At first glance, the open­ing book in new se­ries Echo Of The Falls looks too fa­mil­iar to be in­ter­est­ing. Shapeshifters are noth­ing new in fan­tasy fic­tion, tribes strongly rem­i­nis­cent of peo­ples from hu­man his­tory are like­wise not un­usual, and tales of half- blood chil­dren not quite fit­ting in can be found in pretty much any genre of lit­er­a­ture you care to name.

De­spite that, Adrian Tchaikovsky has none­the­less man­aged to cre­ate an en­gag­ing, en­joy­able story. In fact, the fa­mil­iar­ity works in its favour, giv­ing the book the feel­ing of a retelling of an ac­tual myth, so in­stead of hop­ing for nov­elty, your fo­cus as a reader is on how the age- old tale is told. This is aided by ref­er­ences that hint at ac­tual le­gends, such as the jaws of the wolf be­ing wide enough to swal­low the Moon – hark­ing back, of course, to Norse sto­ries of Rag­narok. Your dis­be­lief is sus­pended from the start be­cause no one ex­pects le­gends to be lit­eral.

An­other thing that adds to the feel­ing that this is an ages- old myth is the fact that Tchaikovsky never ex­plains his world. You’re ex­pected sim­ply to take it as it is. The novel opens with a scene found in many myth- cy­cles from an­cient Greek to Arthurian, a deer hunt, and the fact that the hunters are some­times in the form of wolves, some­times hu­mans, is easy to ac­cept.

This is a hefty book, though, and a myth- like qual­ity alone wouldn’t be enough to keep most peo­ple read­ing for hun­dreds of pages. For­tu­nately, the char­ac­ters do have the depth re­quired to en­sure you en­gage with them. The story cen­tres on sur­pris­ingly few char­ac­ters, the main one be­ing Maniye, whose Wolf tribal chief fa­ther, Akrit Stone River, wishes to use his daugh­ter’s link to her Tiger Queen mother’s peo­ple to take con­trol of the re­main­ing Tigers and, in the process, also be­come High King of all the Wolves. Torn be­tween her Tiger side and her Wolf one, and hor­ri­fied by what Akrit has planned for her, Maniye is a char­ac­ter you can sym­pa­thise with and have hopes for, while Akrit is a tragic fig­ure, one who loses his great­ness reach­ing for things beyond his grasp, and doesn’t see the value in his daugh­ter un­til he’s gone too far – in many ways he’s akin to one of Shake­speare’s tragic he­roes.

Into Maniye’s north­ern, forested world come trav­ellers from the warm plains and wide river of the south, seek­ing al­lies to fight in a war be­tween ri­val fac­tions back in their own lands. It’s not just their hu­man ap­pear­ances that dif­fer dra­mat­i­cally, so do their an­i­mals: Hyena, Snake, Ko­modo Dragon, Croc­o­dile, and the Cham­pion, a strange crea­ture un­known to men. Tchaikovsky doesn’t elab­o­rate on these trav­ellers’ back­grounds any more than he does the Wolves’ society, though you get a clear pic­ture of each one from their in­ter­ac­tions and con­ver­sa­tions.

De­spite its length, The Tiger And The Wolf only re­ally drags to­wards the end. Maniye spends an aw­ful lot of time meet­ing and then run­ning away from var­i­ous peo­ple, and the es­capes and chases do even­tu­ally grow a tad tire­some. When the an­tic­i­pated show­down comes, it’s very wel­come.

The end­ing will come as no real sur­prise, but then that’s the thing about myths: we all know how they end, and we’d feel cheated if they didn’t fin­ish as ex­pected. Aside from, per­haps, fea­tur­ing one chase too many, this is a sat­is­fy­ing read, a story that you can re­ally lose your­self in. Miriam McDon­ald

Adrian Tchaikovsky spent about three months re­search­ing/ read­ing up on var­i­ous real- world cul­tures.

A story that you can re­ally lose your­self in

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