I can identify the plot elements, but I have no idea what’s going on with this cover.
I reviewed the first two books in this series last fall (almost exactly a year ago, as a matter of fact), and somehow failed to review the third. But Wood Sprites, fourth in the series, has just come out, and there was no way that I’d leave it untouched after how much I enjoyed the first few.
To be perfectly honest, while the first few books were fun they were also frequently uncomfortable; Wen Spencer includes toxic interpersonal relationships, abuse, and worse trigger-warning worthy things, though from my limited perspective she treats it more honestly than many other fantasy authors do. While Wood Sprites is a far safer read, it still doesn’t shy away from putting its protagonists through a series of terrible circumstances. This feels appropriate, given that the protagonists are 9 year-olds in the center of a multi-generational secret war.
One thing that I should note, however, is that this book is full of spoilers. While its events take place far from the events of the first three books, its story weaves intricately into the story told in the other books and fills in gaps that I barely even knew existed. I would almost recommend this book as a standalone introduction to the series, but…
I have to admit, my memory of Wolf Who Rules has blended into the book that comes before it (Tinker, which I reviewed last week) and the next one in the series (Elfhome). As you might expect from such a situation, if you liked Tinker you’ll almost certainly like Wolf Who Rules.
I can extricate the details of the plot with some additional focus, but the stories all pile together, following one another so closely that it is not easy to tell where one ends and the next begins. Little is done to ease you back into the story beyond a few quick info drops, but this also means that if you’ve just read Tinker you’ll easily slide along into this one without any sense of confusion. Without one of the sometimes ponderous prolonged reintroductions that are so common to a series, Wolf Who Rules whisks you straight into the next adventure.
Wen Spencer surprised me. I picked up Tinker through the Baen ebook store, expecting to find something that would keep me suitably amused while traveling. The book did that, and then it grabbed me and pulled me in. While I should have been working, I read. While I should have been visiting with family, I read. While I should have been sleeping… you get the idea. It turns out that Spencer is very good at delivering on the promises of her pacing; she starts with a bang, and she quickly turns up the heat and adds increasing tension to the mix. There are a few spots where you can sit down and take a breath, but you won’t want to. Add some sections that make you wince and cringe and more sections that are laugh-out-loud funny, and you’ve got Tinker. It’s a bit like a less pulpy version of Girl Genius. Would you like to know more?