More than Wolf
I’ve known a few persons who I suspect spend spare nighttime hours as wolves, but my acquaintances did not help me decipher the initial scenes of Heather Ashbury’s new novel, More than Wolf.
The book’s subtitle, Book 2 of the More than Human Series, should have prepared me. The murder being mourned during the opening of More than Wolf occurred in book 1. In that first book I could have learned the backstory of the central character Jule, whose werewolfery is as fascinating as her vague boy(wolf)-friend William is puzzling.
Ashbury did prepare readers for the cast of characters. She just stuck the preparation into the last chapter.
Here’s the remarkable opening crew: Jule –Werewolf; William –Werewolf; Fidelia –Cat-shifter; Loki –Norse god (though powerless); Azul –Dragon-shifter; Esadora –Spirit Immersion; Rose/Sama –Witch; Lillith –Witch; Jeremy –Demonologist/shifter; Rayme –Human/herbalist; and Athan –Witch.
Esadora is a spirit immersion, though I remained fuzzy about spirit immersion till a late chapter. She was Jule’s BBF, and the book alternates between her story and Jule’s. More than Wolf is rife with jealousy. Esadora tries to shake a love for Jule’s William, just as William hides yearnings for his formerly assigned lover while being intensely jealous of Jule’s assigned lover, who’s identified by rippling biceps and a pungent smell.
That “assigned lover” business, called “match mate,” belongs to William’s North Carolina clan. To acculturate Jule into lycantropy (werewolfery for us sophisticates) William takes her from his Mogollon ranch to meet family. Ashbury cleverly presents the norms and values of William’s kin.
Switching from human to wolf and back expands a writer’s toolbox, rather like changing a one-dimensional chessboard for three-dimensions. Insult a mild-mannered character and she can just shuck her jumper and become a snarling beast baring her canines. This device, however, needs Ashbury’s skills, else the story becomes Wind in the Willows, and a reader starts wondering what if a character was a “were-otter” instead of a werewolf.
Introduction of herbal medicine, like multiple animals roaming inside a single character, opens a new angle for Esadora’s malady, which has the symptoms of nightmares and sleeplessness. Lichens are lauded for their curative properties. In these fantastic worlds the author provides steady guidance with nary a trace of gee-whiz.
Ashbury is also a talented portrayer of heated moments. Forbidden by the clan matriarch to be with William, Jule nevertheless has a tryst that scorches the page. In her first sightings of her odiferous match mate, Jule’s confusion and lust are perfectly depicted. The author puts a reader directly inside the bone crunching, blood spilling of hunts and battles.
In other prose passages, however, weak adverbs, multi-syllabic verbs, dangling participles and “lazy syntax” get in the way of a clear telling. It’s a minor point, but Ashbury deserves a stern copy editor.
Will Jule remain with William or will she fall for that guy with the pungent scent? To know the answer, you’ll have to buy the book, soon to be available from your favorite bookseller. Also be comforted, as I am, that book 3 is on its way to unknot more of the mysterious Jule.
The Donkey Who Shall Remain Nameless
If fortunate, a writer can preserve a sentence or a brief poem that captures a fleeting moment of composition as it summons a span of decades, a whole adulthood.
Rita Ann Plante, CSJ, is a fortunate writer. Well known in Silver City for her life at St. Mary’s convent, for her service at our hospital and for standing at an edge of Gough Park to encourage motorists to pray for peace, Sister Rita has collected almost seven decades of her poems.
Lest you think that religious poetry ain’t your thing, know that Plante’s world is wide and her poetry, while making glancing references to faith, ranges through language and what Plante calls “heart.” Line after line demonstrates a subtle mind and a keen appreciation for the sheer power of two or three words.
She is often playful, as in her title, The Donkey Who Shall Remain Nameless. Said donkey, symbol of obstinate perseverance, is Plante, says she.