James Enge’s The Wolf Age is the third novel to feature the hero Morlock Ambrosius. I read the first, Blood of Ambrose, back in April of 2009 though I skipped the second outing This Crooked Way. I read Blood of Ambrose long before I had heard of Black Gate Magazine, the periodical which has been the home to Morlock on multiple occasions, and I suppose I have (consciously or otherwise) set out to make sure I follow authors read in the pages of Black Gate in longer forms whenever possible. The Wolf Agepays tribute to the sword and sorcery stories of old without ever feeling stale.
Where in The Blood of Ambrose readers joined Morlock as he journeyed back amidst civilization The Wolf Age sees Moorlock on sort of self-imposed exile as his presence tends to draw the attention of his father Merlin. While traversing the wilderness Morlock discovers a raiding party from the werewolf city Wuruyaaria and though Morlock intercedes on behalf of the villagers under attack he finds himself captured and imprisoned. At the same time Morlock is being employed, without his knowledge, by forces far more powerful than he suspects; forces who see the destruction of Wuruyaaria and its mysterious founder as an absolute necessity.
The Wolf Age is awesome. In a place and time where vampires are all the rage in just about every genre under the sun it is a refreshing change of pace to see someone dust off werewolves. Enge weaves a fantastic tale of action, adventure, sword, and fang easily crafting a story full of equal parts wonder and excitement. Limited time is spent on exposition with brief interludes as we occasionally view things through the eyes of the Strange Gods, personified abstractions of basic human drives and emotions. These brief views allow us to take a step back and view things from a broader perspective while still maintaining an air of mystery and wonder. Tender morsels of hints were dropped regarded the pasts of these Strange Gods. Tantalizing little bits of information that I would love to see Enge explore in other novels but serve well to whet the appetite and keep you reading here.
Morlock is a fascinating creation. Willful to the point of being nearly a force of nature himself there were points of this story where his sense of justice as he sees it reminded of recent characterizations of a certain Time Lord. He isn’t without flaws of course and the kind act of a friend in The Wolf Age helps uncover one of those facts leading to moments both tragic and comic. Morlock is what modern terminology would dub a functional alcoholic. Not a laughing matter and the person he is sober and the person he is drunk are similar in one sense and completely different in another. Alcohol magnifies aspects of Morlock’s personality seemingly without inhibiting his ability to perform. Watching a drunk Morlock take flight to assault an attacking airship is part horrifying and partly hilarious.
Ghosts-in-the-eyes, the werewolf who founded Wuryaaria, is an absolutely fantastic creation. I don’t want to spoil things but Enge crafted a fantastic counterpoint to Morlock in the werewolf maker. While the inscrutable werewolf maker is mentioned early in the novel he remains, appropriately, something of a ghost throughout the entirety of the novel. A slightly tangible but still nebulous presence over the course of the book Ghosts-in-eyes plays a satisfying and completely surprising twist towards the novel’s end.
Werewolves, airships, flying wings, mad wizards, swords, action and more The Wolf Age by James Enge is a fine novel that scratches old school sword and sorcery itch without ever feeling stale. It had a more focused feel than Blood of Ambrose and the near solitary focus on Morlock worked quite well. The Wolf Age also takes a subtle narrative approach as a story being told someone; an effect evoked in the novel’s first line, “Listen Iacomes. This is what I see.” and not referenced again until the novel’s conclusion. I greatly look forward to more stories of Morlock the Maker and hope more people hungry for adventure and wonder will take a look at the stellar work of James Enge.