by Susan Krinard, historical/fantasy (2003)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19208-3
Susan Krinard's latest historical werewolf tale To Catch A Wolf is a very enjoyable read. What makes it impressive is that it manages to actually become more readable as the story progresses despite - or maybe it's because? - the secondary characters hijacking the story away from the dull main characters.
Morgan Holt is a werewolf that shuns society after he is accused of murdering his father. He ends up in a traveling circus, using his half-transformed state to play the main attraction. Then he meets Denver society belle Athena Monroe, who is also a werewolf trying to fit in with society. What happens is that Athena is the dull charity-friendly sort that hires the circus to perform at one of the functions that she helps organize. Their bond is strong and undeniable, but her brother Niall and two Other Women object vehemently. Oh, what to do, what to do?
Morgan is a familiar tortured hero, but it is difficult to warm up with him until late in the story because until then, he remains mostly a familiar hero I've read too many times before. Athena fares the worst as she comes off like a stereotypical naive nitwit half the time. Then there's the supremely irritating circus horsetrainer lady Caitlin whose entire characterization relies on the author continuously demonizing Caitlin's foil, the other woman for Niall's affections. I can also say that Athena's characterization in a way also relies on the author's demonizing the Other Woman that also wants Morgan. Because Niall is a man, he gets to be fleshed out deeper than a stereotype, but heaven forbid Ms Krinard spares the women some leftovers from her efforts with Niall.
What could have been a familiar tale of Other Hos destroying Boring and Tortured's Grand True Love however is saved by Niall. Niall is a wonderful character as he descends more and more into melodramatic woe and bluster as he falls in love with that dull cow Caitlin and the whole story spirals down into a really taut and tense tale of family secrets and angst. Niall's actions force Athena and Morgan to undergo some much-needed growth as those two confront difficult issues and have to make decisions just as difficult. Gloriously bad at times and often wonderfully torn apart by his conflicted emotions, Niall is everything Morgan can only dream of being as a dark and magnetic antihero. Call me a sucker, but if Ms Krinard is writing Niall's story and provided he remains in character in that book, I'm first in line.
At the end of the day, To Catch A Wolf is saved from mediocrity by a secondary character that runs away with the story. It's a story that seems to have its priorities misplaced, but still, with Niall, thanks to Niall, it's a pretty good read nonetheless.
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