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Book review: Curse of the Wolf Girl by Martin Millar

January 26, 2012

In a nutshell: The best soap opera you ever watched. With werewolves.

The sequel to ‘Lonely Werewolf Girl’, ‘Curse of the Wolf Girl’ picks up the tale of Kalix MacRinnalch, a troubled teenage werewolf who is currently in London, being hidden from her many foes by human students Daniel and Moonglow.
Even for a fantasy novel, the plot of this series with its intricate history-building, political intrigue, Heat-magazine-worthy gossip-mongering and cast of literally hundreds of characters, requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. It’s convoluted, silly, dramatic, angst-ridden and absolutely fantastic.

You can see where the Buffy influence (Millar is a confirmed fan) comes in. The Kalix stories tell an epic tale of the fall of kingdoms and the rise of fashion houses, of murder, intrigue, sorcery and troublesome college assignments. Millar takes a quite traditional (although this particular handling of it is unique and well-imagined) fantasy premise and works it into the modern world in a completely convincing way, delivered with his usual deadpan, charming style. It shouldn’t work, but it really does – it’s like the best, most riveting soap opera you’ve ever watched, only it’s down on paper and it has killer jaws.

The characters (and there are a lot of them) are all flawed and often downright despicable, but Millar’s gift at writing renders all of them, even the most villainous, thoroughly enjoyable to read, if not downright likeable. It’s just that they’re so human – even the Fire Elementals. The description, and also especially the dialogue, is deceptively simple but highly effective and often hilarious. On numerous occasions I’ve laughed out loud reading this book, at simple, one sentence exchanges.

Without wanting to spoiler the book too much in this review, my favourite elements to this sequel were the developing relationships between several of the characters, which are built up slowly and realistically and I found to be genuinely touching. In particular, the friendship between Kalix and Vex (chapter 150 made me actually cheer out loud) and the relationship between Kalix and her cousin Dominil, and Vex’s character progression throughout the whole last quarter of the book. It’s also nice to see a series with not one but a whole host of female protagonists who aren’t stereotyped, patronised, over-sexualised or in need of constant rescuing – whilst still remaining realistically flawed individuals in their own way. Even though this story is full of characters with ‘super powers’ it can be noted there’s definitely no superheroes in here!

I’ve seen these books criticised frequently for the repetitive nature of the narrative. I can see how this might annoy some readers because the narrative is certainly repetitive. I’m quite a slow reader though and I have a terrible memory, so this method of writing is actually a plus point for me in this case, as the constant recaps of plot and character help me keep up with the fast-paced and very involved storyline.

The final scene of the book struck an absolutely perfect chord – like watching it on a screen in my brain! I feel like I know these characters now and I hope that there will be a third book in the Kalix series – I eagerly await it.

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