Book Review: “Aralorn—Masques & Wolfsbane” by Patricia Briggs
Reviewed by: Andrew Robins
I am a fan of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson Urban Fantasy series, so when the opportunity came up to take a look at some of her earlier work in the Epic Fantasy genre I was keen.
Aralorn is a two volume compendium, consisting of the first novel Patricia Briggs ever published, Masques, and a till now unpublished follow up novel (written later), Wolfsbane.
In the preface to each book within the compendium, the author outlines the journey she has been on with these novels and talks a little about what they have meant to her as writer. I found this to be well worth reading.
These books share characters, settings, and plot lines – and yet are very different books. The preface explains why in a way that engaged me as a reader.
Put bluntly, Masques, the first book is “well enough”. The main character, Aralorn, is interesting and basically carries the story. There is also some good world building, but most of the secondary characters are pretty flat. I enjoyed the story enough to be motivated to read Wolfsbane – and am very glad that I did.
Wolfsbane was still written reasonably early on Patricia Briggs’ career, but it contains many more of the qualities that I have found in her later work. In short it is a very clever story that riffs extremely well off the first novel, even to the point of brilliantly exploiting some of that book’s flaws.
Hats off to Patricia Briggs for that.
The first novel finishes with a reasonably classic trope, i.e. “The characters do something unconvincingly stupid that obviously sets up some dramatic tension that could be exploited in a follow up novel”. Briggs DOES exploit this dramatic tension in Wolfsbane – but shows some respect for readers by not doing this in an obvious way. I loved the way the author handled this. The story is layered, and does not necessarily go where you expect it to go. If you have read any of the Mercy Thompson books you will know what I mean.
The secondary characters are also allowed some space of their own, and are much better fleshed out second time around. I am probably going to display a huge amount of geekery here, but to me the opportunity to see the progression in a writers style that his compendium provided was really interesting.
If you like Patricia Briggs’ other books, you will very likely enjoy the Aralorn compendium as well. And if you also enjoy books like Robin McKinley’s Deerskin and Beauty, or Juliet Marillier’s Heartsblood, or any at all of Barbara Hambly’s books, then you should probably also give Aralorn a try.
About the Reviewer:
Andrew Robins is a long time reader – and sometime reviewer – of science fiction, fantasy and history. People pay him to test stuff, mainly radios, which most of the time is more fun than it has any right to be. Any and all views expressed in this review are entirely his own.
Recent reviews by Andrew include:
- “2312″ by Kim Stanley Robinson, here.
- “Redshirts” by John Scalzi, here.
- “The Hydrogen Sonata” by Iain M Banks, here.