THE TIGER AN D THE WOLF
Familiarity breeds contentment
released 11 February 608 pages | Hardback/ ebook
Author Adrian Tchaikovsky
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