Series: Standalone Novella
Publisher: Tor (July 26, 2016)
Length: 96 pages
My Rating: 2 stars
City of Wolves is a gas lamp noir fantasy, which was serviceable as a light, quick read, but isn’t much else.
The setting for this novella is an alternate nineteenth century England. At least, it appears to be England, though no one ever says that explicitly. Gas lamps, lords, ladies, vicars, cathedrals, and other Victorian-esque things seem to give it away however.
The action begins when a noble’s dead, naked body is found. The corpse is covered with unexplained bites and laceration. While the Ministry investigator believes he has a totally reasonable and scientific explanation for the chaps’ death, the noble’s family is not quite so sure, which is why they bring in investigator for hire Alexander Drake.
Now, Detective Drake is a fairly standard investigator sort: lives by his own moral standards, is cool, is collected, is tough, and can’t be shaken off the trail once he has the proverbial bit between his teeth. Nothing unusual about him. Very familiar, comfortable sort of fellow, who will be our guide through this complicated investigation.
But that is where City of Wolves begins to stumble badly: the mystery isn’t very mysterious or complicated. Obviously, the title to this story has wolves in the name, a dead body is naked and covered in animal bites, and there are other flashing Easter eggs scattered about which makes it fairly obvious from the very beginning that werewolves are involved. Indeed, throughout the narrative, there really isn’t many surprises. Sure, we have a bit of duplicity here or there, but nothing an experienced reader doesn’t see coming from a mile away. So the “mystery” quickly becomes a non-factor.
This left it up to Alexander Drake to carry the story, but, unfortunately, he just isn’t very interesting. Obviously, the author did not have many pages to flesh him out in detail, introduce any complex issues or unexpected quirks, but it is very disappointing that Drake is the same old detective we have read about or watched in every private eye story ever written – except he is less interesting than most.
As for the other characters, they are cardboard cutouts mostly. Nothing to set them about from the others. A few merely make appearances out of convenience to move the narrative along like a “crime lord” and an evil priest. Both of whom had no real role in the ongoing story.
But the action is great, right? There is a good bit of it: chase scenes and such, but it really didn’t liven things up enough to overcome the other issues I personally had with the narrative.
All in all, City of Wolves is an okay novella. It isn’t terrible. It isn’t great. It doesn’t bore. But it doesn’t excite either. Willow Palecek has written a light, quick read, which could get better in sequels as the world and characters are developed and grow more complex. Whether I pick up the next novella isn’t determined yet. I’m not saying I won’t read it. Rather, I’m unsure, because I only have a finite amount of reading time and far too many stories to read, and I do not know if I wish to spend that time on Alexander Drake’s further adventures.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.