As October ended, I also decided between and amongst my various story ideas for NaNoWriMo. It was a tough call, and I almost went an entirely different direction, but once I had settled on the werewolf story, I decided it behooved me to read some more werewolf stories that have already been published.
It has changed the way I categorize and define werewolf stories, for one thing. It’s also made me realize how many different ways there are to do a take on the werewolf concept.
Pride Mates, Jennifer Ashley (paranormal romance) – Not really a werewolf story, because the main characters are actually feline shapeshifters, although there are some canids in there too. But in my view, a werewolf story is one in which a person undergoes a change (generally a shift of shape) not of his or her own control, so shapeshifters are way outside of the realm in which I have a driving interest. This book is pretty much what it looks like from the cover, a sexy shapeshifter fantasy. It’s fun, for what it is.
The Wolfman, Nicholas Pekearo (paranormal mystery) – A true werewolf story, full moons and all, I really like the premise of this story and wish the author had been able to add to the series. Pekearo’s werewolf turns every full moon, and every full moon he has to kill someone, so he tries to sic himself on bad guys in a sort of vicious vigilante justice system. I also think the passing of the curse and the actual mechanics of the change (and avoiding it, or not being able to) each month are well thought out. I also like the realistically rough tone of the narrator.
The Werewolf of Paris, Guy Endore (historical horror?) – This book purportedly is trying to do for werewolves what Bram Stoker did for vampires, but having never read Stoker (I knoowww), I can’t actually speak to that. What I did like was the theme that wove through this story, as well as the fact that it was another “true” werewolf story, albeit one without the full moon bit. The hapless Caillet is unaware of his affliction for quite a while, even as his adoptive father catches on. The story winds towards its end in the middle of a messy war zone, the Franco-Prussian War (another thing about which I know very little), and plays a lot to the tune of regular-ass men do much worse things than even this savage beast who is sexually deviant and eats raw meat and human flesh. The origin of the werewolf, in this story, is also steeped in human cruelty, so that was fun.
The Wolf’s Hour, Robert McCammon (Paranormal historical action?) – I’m glad I read this after Endore’s work, since it almost feels like a modernization of the themes. Also set against the backdrop of war (this time World War II), and also pretty clear in showing how horrible humans can be to each other (it’s gotta be hard to write about wars in general, and that one in particular, and not have that be at least a secondary theme). McCammon’s werewolves, though, are more of the shapeshifter variety, more in control of their changes of state, although I do like the subtlety used in showing how it gets hard to control in certain circumstances. Still, the protagonist is almost more a superhero for his shapeshifting powers, and has a thoroughly interesting life story. His condition is brought on by the classic werewolf bite. There is a sequel, which I plan to investigate.
Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater (YA Romance) – This one is a sweet werewolf romance, not to be confused with the super-sexy Pride Mates above. The protagonists are in high school, and while this story was a lot more elegiac, I enjoyed the small town emergencies after having so many big-deal-war stories in this space. Conversely, it also felt a bit slow in spots. Steifvater’s werewolves are true werewolves, though no full moons for them either. They are wolves by bite, but change with temperature, which is an interesting take on the turning process. This is the first of a series, and I am planning to read the rest.
Wolf Children (not a book) – A friend of mine filled my hands with anime DVDs during fall break, and this was one of them. I hadn’t even heard of it, but since it seemed to fit into my current mission, I figured I’d give it a watch. While the werewolves of this movie are not true werewolves by my definition (although the little kids do have trouble controlling their states), I freaking loved this movie. It was probably a combination of werewolf magic, of nostalgia for my Japan life (because the small town and its old people reminded me so freaking much of north Shiso), and the dynamic interplay of the family finding their places in the world that pretty much had me crying off and on all the way though but especially at the ending. As paranormal as the premise is, the whole thing felt pretty true in the way that fiction is often a better representation of the real than nonfiction sometimes is. You can watch the trailer at the link (click the title “Wolf Children” above) – I teared up just now, watching it.
I would say that the book Santa Olivia (and its sequel, Saints Astray) by Jacqueline Carey would also fit into a discussion about werewolf stories, since the main protagonist Loup Garron is pretty wolfish by descent from her genetically engineered father who was a wolf-man. Carey’s series Agent of Hel also includes werewolf characters, among the cast of the Eldritch community there.
I did some other “research” while I was at this.
I have been listening to the podcast Lore, and I’ll suggest episode 3, “The Beast Within” as good werewolf … well… lore.
Though a vampire and not werewolf story, I did rush the book A Shade of Vampire to the top of my bestseller reading list because it was a supernatural romance, and I thought my story might have elements of that in it too.
I also picked up Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, because I knew it was supernatural stories (also because I saw lemons on the cover, and I’m automatically drawn to lemon things). It’s a collection of short stories, most of which I quite enjoyed, although no werewolves in this one.
I also saw, quite some time ago, the movie An American Werewolf in London, and a bit later, An American Werewolf in Paris. Like the London one way more, and hardly remember the Paris one at all. I do have to add that since this was a while back and not part of my current frolic into the light of the full moon, I’m not comfortable doing a full review.
Finally, and naturally, it bears noting that my first werewolf encounter (and love) was Remus Lupin, first appearing in The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.
What Do You Think?
I know I’m missing out on plenty of werewolf stories in popular culture, literature, and film. What suggestions do you have? What have you seen, and what did you think of it?