Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-165-6
Fantasy Erotica, 2010
Cara Carnes’s Wolf is part of the Enchanted series, and therefore, this is an erotic retelling of a fairy tale. As you may have already predicted, Ms Carnes takes on the story of Little Red Riding Hood.
As a child, Hannah disobeyed her grandmother and wandered off the beaten path in the Lost Woods. She discovered a wolf with one leg badly mangled by a fallen tree. The wolf morphed into a young boy before her eyes, and these two proceed to have a most adult-sounding conversation for their supposed age, sigh. Still, she learned that his name was Stephan and he was on a soul journey – a tradition for young boys among his people – when he found himself in his situation. They bonded, but he was gone in the morning. (Don’t be silly, they were kids – nothing sexual happened.)
We then cut to Hannah a couple of years down the road, when she is now twenty and her country is at war with the neighboring country. When enemy invaders attack her defenseless village, she flees without knowing where she is going. Guess who shows up to save her from those men who wish to capture her and sell her off to the slave market.
This one is more of a “lost girl finds haven among the natives” story than a tale of evil wolves and Freudian innuendos involving woodcutters and grandmothers, and it could have been a pleasant, if predictable, read were not for Ms Carnes’s frequent overuse of flowery prose. Her prose tends to string together adjectives without the author pausing to think whether the adjective is appropriate in the context. For example, when Hannah is terrified and desperate, running through the woods to avoid the men who want to capture her, she still can pause to admire Stephan’s body and drown in his “captivating eyes”. She can also take note of Stephan’s “clean-shaven” jaw when she’s supposed to be scared witless.
The author also favors melodrama, often with unintentionally comical results. When Hannah sees Stephan again, for example, her gasp is loud enough, I’m told, to fill the whole area. That must be some set of lungs she has on her. No wonder Stephan is in love.
The author unfortunately also favors stupidity when it comes to Hannah. Once Hannah is safe from the men who want to capture her, she insists on traveling alone back to her village even when she’s injured. Fortunately, Stephan is there to prevent her from carrying out her stupid decisions. In fact, in this story, Hannah doesn’t have to do anything like thinking complicated thoughts. Everything, from sleeping with Stephan to being his wife, is a decision either forced upon her by fate or made for her by other people. With Hannah’s potential to accidentally kill herself while bending over to tie a shoelace, this is no doubt the best way to go.
Wolf feels too overwritten for its own good and yet, the whole story feels artificial. Dear Grandma is not amused, I’m afraid.