Aug 16, 2010

Curse of the Wolf Girl by Martin Millar

Curse of the Wolf Girl by Martin Millar

Curse of the Wolf Girl is a direct sequel to Martin Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl, which means that it picks up right where the first book left off. A brief recap, in which I’ll try to keep spoilers for the first book at a minimum: Kalix McRinnalch, a seventeen-year-old werewolf living in London, is still banished from her Scottish clan. Her brother Markus is the new Thane, and things have become considerable more peaceful for the McRinnalch werewolves. But there are still some who resent Kalix for killing the previous Thane and who desperately want to see her punished her for it.

Kalix and her friend Vex, a young fire elemental, are living with Moonglow and Daniel, two human university students, and attending remedial college. Kalix’ cousins Butix and Delix are still living in Camden Town and playing in a band; Dominil is still trying to manage said band; and the Fire Elemental Queen Malveria and Kalix’ older sister Thrix are still obsessed with fashion. To make things even more interesting, Thrix might be about to fall in love, and the Avenaris Guild, a league of werewolf hunters, has a new plan to get rid of the McRinnalch werewolves. These two facts, by the way, are not exactly unrelated.

I imagine that the above was slightly confusing for anyone who hasn’t read Lonely Werewolf Girl, and that’s not even half of it. But don’t worry – you do need to read the books in order, but if you do, the plot isn’t confusing in the least, regardless of the large cast of characters and number of subplots. And the plot isn’t the point of Curse of the Wolf Girl anyway, nor is the fact that most of its characters are werewolves or fire elementals or sorcerers or faeries. Once again, what makes this book stand out is Martin Millar’s absolutely wonderful sense of humour, the excellent characterisation, and the complex and realistic relationships between the characters.

Curse of the Wolf Girl’s relationship with Lonely Werewolf Girl could perhaps be described as “more of the same”, but I mean this in the best possible way. What we have here is very much not an unnecessary sequel. It’s true that the ending of the first book, while somewhat open, didn’t necessarily demand a continuation, but I couldn’t be more thrilled that there is one. When I say “more of the same,” what I mean is that this book has the same strengths that made the previous one so wonderful. The ending, by the way, once again leaves the door open for a further book, to which I say: hooray, hooray, hooray. I
d happily read a thousand books featuring these characters in a row.That’s how much I love them.

It’s interesting how some of the characters in these books come close to becoming comedic types, but they never quite do. There’s always more to them than meets the eye; there’s always something that humanises them and keeps them from becoming one-dimensional. I’m thinking of Malveria, for example, who is perhaps my favourite character. She’s a bit of a fashion victim; she’s a Queen who neglects her realm because she’s too caught up in the affairs of werewolves and humans; she’s a sarcastic and slightly scheming person (but not necessarily unkind); and she’s an exasperated aunt to the teenager Vex. And just when you think you’ve got her pinned, she turns around and does something that surprises you, something that illuminates a previously hidden side of her personality.

The same goes for Dominil, the twenty-something Oxford graduate who’s almost even more of a loner than Kalix herself. The more I get to know her, the more I like her. And then, of course, there’s Kalix herself, who remains as much of a lonely werewolf girl as ever – but who might be, bit by bit, beginning to learn to let other people in. It’s a slow and difficult process, as the slightest misunderstanding or perceived rejection causes her to clam up again. But that’s what makes it so authentic. Kalix’s trust issues really resonated with me, as did her cycle of anxiety, depression, and further anxiety about feeling anxious. I suspect that anyone who has ever suffered from social anxiety or from panic attacks will find that the way this process is described in Curse of the Wolf Girl rings absolutely true.

I mentioned Martin Millar’s fantastic sense of humour earlier, but by now you might be feeling faintly puzzled and thinking that a story about loneliness, anxiety, and the complexities of interpersonal relationships doesn’t sound particularly funny. But that’s the brilliant thing, really: Martin Millar’s humour isn’t so much dark as it is of a kind that perfectly balances comedy with serious and even moving moments. What makes it work is the fact that his tone is just right. He tells a particular kind of straight-faced joke that I imagine to be difficult to pull off, but he’s absolutely brilliant at it. And as I said back when I reviewed Lonely Werewolf Girl, I’m afraid I have no way of conveying how hilarious a phrase like ‘Nefarious niece!’ can be in the context of this book. You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that the book made me laugh out loud repeatedly.

Curse of the Wolf Girl is a story about teenagers and adults learning to navigate the complex social world we all live in, to connect with one another, to trust, and to give making the best of their lives an honest shot, even if they get hurt sometimes. The result is sweet, occasionally sad, and absolutely hilarious. This is unlike any other urban fantasy series you’re likely to have read, and it’s definitely one of my favourite series out there. I can’t wait for Martin Millar’s next book.

They read it too:
Jenny’s Books
Beyond Books
Wands and Worlds
Alone and Unobserved

(Have I missed yours?)

17 comments:

Debi said...

The Lonely Werewolf Girl is one of those books I just feel certain I'll adore, and yet am reluctant to start simply because it's so long and I know it will take me forever to read. And yes, I know that is about the dumbest reason I can think of for not reading a book. :( I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one every bit as much as the first. I just might have to surprise Annie with it...she just read Lonely Werewolf Girl and absolutely loved it!

Zibilee said...

I think the fact that this series continues to be good, and also that you would happily read a hundred of these books back to back speak a lot to the good qualities of this story. I am going to have to check this out because I think that both of my teenage kids would love it, and I could borrow it from them as well!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

These books have been getting such good reviews. But you are not the only one to advise reading them in order. I don't mind - it means if I like it, there is another one ready to go for me!

Emidy said...

Wonderful review! You know, from experience, I never really enjoyed books with werewolves. After reading your review, though, I'd seriously consider picking this one up! The characters sound excellent, and the plot is really cool.

Care said...

Another Martin Millar post! Guess I better add to my tbr...

Rhinoa said...

This is now the second glowing review I have read of this. I really must read the first book as I loved Good Fairies and think these will appeal to me even more.

Iliana said...

Thank you for the reminder to pick up the first book. I remember reading about that one a while back and forgot. It sounds like a good premise and something slightly different - well, especially if I want something in the fantasy are but not about vamps :)

Colleen said...

It totally rocks - just finished it and loved it. Yes, you do have to read them in order but although LONELY is a big book it flies by, promise.

Where else do you get name dropping of VOGUE, SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH and werewolves ripping each others' arms off? Seriously. You can't beat it for smart and fun!

Jenny said...

I was surprised at how much I liked--ack, I can't think of his name! The werewolf with the crush on Kalix. That whole thing cracked me up, and I cannot wait for the next book to be written to see what will happen with that. Actually to see what will happen with all sorts of things...I am very very pleased by the implication that another sequel is forthcoming. :D

Kathleen said...

You always make everything sound so good. I must have pages of books that I have on my TBR because of your recommendations. I am off the library tonight in search of something by Diana Wynne Jones. I'm hoping to find something on the shelves there!

Amy said...

I think I'd want to read these in order, I'm a tad bit confused :)

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

i'd never seen this one before, i've wanted to read lonely werewolf girl for awhile though!

ibeeeg said...

Wow..what a great review! I really like how you explained so well that reading the first book will put everything in order...the second book will make sense. This book sounds like a book for me especially when I read your last paragraph. I am going to search out the first book. I am psyched! Thanks for putting these books on my radar...my tbr list! :)

Nymeth said...

Debi: Lonely Werewolf Girl is actually a pretty quick read despite its size. The chapters are short and you always find yourself thinking you can read just one more :P Anyway, I've no doubt that Annie (and you!) would enjoy this one :)

Zibilee: Yes, make sure you do borrow it!

Jill: Exactly :D

Emidy: I don't much care about werewolves one way or the other, but the thing with these books is that it doesn't matter that they're werewolves - the characters are just... people.

Care: Do!

Rhinoa: These are definitely right up your alley :)

Iliana: It's different from anything else out there, that's for sure.

Colleen: You took the words out of my mouth re: Lonely Werewolf Girl. It doesn't feel like a long book at all. And yes - loved all the pop culture references!

Jenny: Decembrius, I think? I barely remembered him at all from the first book, so I don't think he made much of an impression on me then. But he was great here, yes.

Kathleen: Only that I *do* think is good, promise ;)

Amy: I promise you won't be if you do, though! Millar really makes all the subplots work.

Carrie: Do - and then you'll want more :P

ibeeeg: You're most welcome! They're great fun :)

Jodie said...

My copy of Lonely Wolfgirl was that awful first print, now known for its many typos so I was kind of distracted when reading it. I'm with you on Malveria being one of the best characters though and the way she shows her softer side sometimes is disconcerting, but beautiful.

I hope there's less castle time in this one, because I just wanted to spend all my time with the werewolves living among humans and everytime they returned to the scheming meetings in the castle I found myself drifting. Is Marcus back (I know, evil and a cad, but devilishly attractive cross dressing werewolves are hard to dislike entirely). It would be awesome if there was a third book where Kalix saw the new Runaways film...

Memory said...

Even though I didn't love LONELY WEREWOLF GIRL as much as the rest of the world did, I find that I really want to read this. I've been having odd Martin Millar cravings since I learned of its existence.

Natasha said...

Malveria is deff. a good comic relief in the book.

I would suggest to read them in order, to understand the conflicts of the family, but it's not necessary.

I just finished the book and am anticipating another one.
I woul dlove to see is Sarapen comes back, maybe fall in love with Dominil (sp?) or vise versa....huh huh?

it would be interesting to see the "fairie" realm get more involved.

~nat