Monday, February 8, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Wilding by Melanie Tem

About the Author

Melanie Tem is the author of Prodigal, Blood Moon, Wilding, Making Love (with Nancy Holder), Revenant, Desmodus, Witch-Light (with Nancy Holder), The Tides, Black River, Daughters (with husband, Steve Rasnic Tem), Slain in the Spirit and The Deceiver; and the collections Daddy's Side, Beautiful Strangers (with Steve Rasnic Tem) and The Ice Downstream: A Short Story Collection. Tem won a Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel with Prodigal.


Wilding is a saga about a family of female werewolves, focusing on the family living in present-day Colorado. The clan has been split in two: the city family, living in a quartet of brick houses built by their ancestors, with matriarch Mary, her daughter Ruth, Ruth's daughter Lydia and Lydia's pregnant teen daughter Deborah; and the country family, living in a cave in the mountains, controlled by Mary's sister Hannah, and her several daughters (there are no sons because if a boy is born, they kill him, no husbands because they are only used to make babies and then killed). Deborah runs away when the family decides she isn't ready for the initiation, prompting them to search for her.

The plot focuses more on the dysfunctional family and subplots (Deborah living on the streets with a homeless man, Ruth and her cousin Marguerite attempting to take over the family, Lydia's new friendship/lesbian relationship with a co-worker) than it does on the werewolf aspect. It felt as if the werewolf plot was incidental and a few kills were described in passing.

The story of each woman is told in alternating chapters, making it a quick read when you want to find out what happens to a particular character and have to read through three chapters to return to her. And the mountain clan is barely mentioned. It would be more interesting if the main characters featured a few from the city and a few from the country, instead of all of them being from the city.

The description of Colorado and the houses, caves, mountains and werewolves, is very well-written, making me feel like I'm there and witnessing a person turn into a wolf. But at times the story gets bogged down with description. For instance, Tem will be writing about a major event - like Mary finding Deborah - and stop in the middle to write pages of description about a memory Mary has about that particular place. It becomes very distracting and irritating.

The characters are interesting, but being werewolves, they seem like they have no emotions. Most of the minor characters are so nice to them, but it's like they can't comprehend the kindness and lash out at them instead, making it difficult to like the characters. But I guess I'm just used to the werewolves being the villains instead of the protagonists.

Wilding is okay as a family saga, not-so-great as a werewolf novel. But I enjoy family sagas, so I'm giving it a 3. If you want to read a good werewolf novel, try The Howling by Gary Brandner, The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber or Ravenous by Ray Garton.

Rating: 3/5

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