Wereworld: Rage of Lions
Rage of Lions is the second in Curtis Jobling's Wereworld series. If you haven't read the first book then this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS so in the nicest possible way, er, go away.
After the dramatic and life changing events of Rise of The Wolf, Drew of the Dyrewood is adjusting to his new position as future monarch of Lyssia by mastering his inner lycanthrope and brushing up his swordplay. He's also learning a lot about court politics courtesy of a self appointed Wolf's Council, let by the Bearlord Bergan, running the place while Drew himself trains up, so to speak. While Drew and the honourable amongst the Werelords emerged triumphant at the end of Rise of The Wolf and now reside in the capital of Westlands, Highcliff, there is still much work to be done. The disposed Werelion, Leopold has barricaded himself in Highcliff Keep and his less than stable son (not to mention Drew's half brother) Lucas is teetering on the edge of insanity having kidnapped the Werefox Lady Gretchen and spirited her away. As Drew sets off to save Gretchen and the Wolf's Council struggle to unite the Seven Realms none are aware of the greater danger that fast approaches...
The Drew that readers encounter in this installment of the Wereworld series is at once entirely different and also awfully similar to the boy who ran off to live wild in the Dyrewood. On one hand, he has learnt to live more peaceably with his inner animal, no longer fearing the Wolf and has grown up considerably. However, at heart he is still the country boy who grew up a farmer and cared nothing for the politics of his homeland and this aspect of his personality leaves him discontent in his new role and ill at ease with his heritage. When Gretchen is kidnapped he is quick to strike out alone and it is clear that he relishes the freedom from the expectations and traditions that weigh so heavily on his soldiers. While he is clearly no longer a boy, he is still a very young man and there are some lighter moments when he is faced with the determined Gretchen and the timid Whitely who have him besieged by feelings that he's not really had to think about until now, the most inappropriate of times. He is an extremely likable character and his development over the course of the book is, while often brutally forced by circumstance, entirely believable.
Other characters are equally interesting. Gretchen and Whitely are almost the only women to appear and are extremely different. Gretchen...well... pah to Gretchen. She's scarily focused when it comes to Drew and I generally found her pretty annoying. Saying that, she doesn't get much face time and there are a couple of instances where her bravery is truly impressive and her determined stance fun to read. Whitely is a far easier character to root for and her friendship with Drew seems, while confused, more honest than his relationship with Gretchen. I can't wait to see more of her – and it would appear that she's going to have quite a lot to deal with in the future so I'm sure that we shall. Of Drew's close friends, Hector is by far the most fascinating. He has little backbone and is, overall, rather pathetic although always willing to stick his neck out for his friend he does seems to spend an awful lot of time blubbing in the face of danger. However, this is absolutely what makes him so interesting – writing a character so blatantly spineless is a brave move on Jobling's part and a weak mind opens itself to many a temptation, which is exactly why Hector is going to be one to watch from this point on.
Once more, the attendant Werelords of Lyssia are a glorious lot. From brave Bergan and temper-some Mikkel, to the fabulous Vega, the Wolf's Council are a formidable group. It is, however, the many enemies that appear who rather steal the show. To say more would be to spoil the enjoyment but some are truly... devilish. A special mention for the crazed Prince Lucas who, when he appears, is really quite frightening in his madness. He truly is an, er, screwed up little lion.
The plot itself is fast moving and gripping. While Gretchen's kidnapping would at first appear to be the main storyline, it quickly expands to encompass an ambitious tale of a realm on the verge of civil war. Rage of Lions climaxes two concurrent and hugely exciting battles and be warned, Curtis Jobling takes no prisoners, killing off characters left, right and centre and presenting readers with some scenes with scenes of real brutality (the phrase “it's all fun and games until somebody loses an _____” could have been written for this series, just fill in the blank with any appropriate limb). However, the violence never seems out of place and always sits well within the plot. As with Rise of The Wolf, the land of Lyssia is beautifully realised, the original idea of Werelords excellently executed and the characters well drawn and carefully nuanced. Lovers of high fantasy (adult or young adult) will adore these titles and those who don't think they love high fantasy should pick up the Wereworld series and have their minds quickly changed. Great stuff.
Rage of Lions is available now. Thank you to Puffin for providing me with this title to review.