Published by Text Publishing on March 1st 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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As night fell, something stirred the darkness. Birds shrieked, rising into the air as the peace cracked and fell apart. Flashes of crimson uniform cut the smothering black of the woods. The smell of smoke lifted through the boughs and choked the leaves. A drum beat out a steady pulse as soldiers tore over the dead leaf matter, hacking their way through the web of forest.
The prisoner ran.
When Lowell Sencha finds the strange girl lying as if dead on the riverbank, he is startled to find that she is like them: waer. Human, but able to assume the form of a wolf. The Sencha family’s small community has kept itself sequestered and unnoticed, free from persecution. The arrival of a fellow traveller, and a hunted one at that, threatens their very survival.
Sure enough, the soldiers of the blood-purist Daeman Leldh soon descend on the village searching for her, burning and slaughtering. Lowell and the mysterious stranger are among the few to escape. And now they must find their way to the city of Luthan where, she says, they will find people to help them bring down Daeman Leldh.
If she can persuade them not to kill her.
This brilliant young adult fantasy debut from young Australian writer Meg Caddy sees the emergence of an exciting new talent in speculative fiction.
The Waer of the Gwydhan Valley live peacefully, keeping their sheep and crops with thanks to their small gods. But when young waer Lowell Sencha finds a woman washed up on the riverbank, trouble is about to descend on the quiet valley and its people.
Waer is far from a typical waerwolf (or werewolf) story. The Waer are free to change into wolves and back at will, and support each other through their transformations. Mated pairs have a soul bond and can speak to each other telepathically. Lowell is one of the kindest and most gentle leading males I’ve read in a YA story – he’s courteous to Lycaea and to everyone else he meets, as well.
Lycaea, on the other hand, is prickly and downright rude early on. As the story goes on she reveals more and more of her warrior skills, but she plays so many cards close to her chest that I was completely blindsided by the twists later in the story. It’s clear that some horrible things have happened to her in her life, and the comfort and support she finds in Lowell is very sweet.
In such a short page count for a fantasy book, it can be hard to find the balance between building both a believable world and a believable story. Waer achieves very close to this balance, with the Valley, Luthan, and the journey in-between being described very clearly. The story ended up being a little light on the detail though, and I wondered about why Leldh was so keen to attack a whole city, and whether there were other Kudhienn surviving in the world. I just wanted it to be a little longer, so we could hear more about the Watchers and their journeys or about the Rogues in Luthan. There just weren’t enough pages to delve into any back stories at all, which was a little disappointing.
Waer is an excellent, stand-alone, fast-paced fantasy with plenty of twists. It’s an amazing debut and I’ll certainly be watching out for Meg Caddy’s future releases.