Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The British Books Challenge 2011 - Review of Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling

The British Books Challenge 2011 is up and running--and I'm late to the January party.  So, with no further ado, here's Scribble City Central's first review of the year, together with a little 'added extra'.

To be honest, when I first heard about it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Curtis Jobling's Rise of the Wolf--the first book in his brand-newWereworld series.  I knew little about Curtis himself except that (as he says on his website) he is 'possibly most (in)famously known as the designer of the BAFTA winning BBC show Bob the Builder', and that Wereworld was his first novel.  There was a positive buzz about it on Twitter, though, so I decided to buy it.  Were-beasts, a fantasy world--just my sort of thing, I thought.  How right I was.  It's a tightly plotted gripper of a novel with some interesting and original twists to it. 

Drew is the odd one out in his family--and on the night of the full moon he finds out why.  A nightmare time ensues for him, and he seeks refuge in the Dyrewood.  But Drew is not destined for a hidden life in the forest.  Soon he is enmeshed in a net of dangerous royal politics and prophecy--however hard he tries to run away from himself and his inner were-beast, he is always brought back to the centre of the action.  It's been some time since I stayed up till 2am reading--I need my beauty sleep too much nowadays.  But I found Wereworld just too fascinating to put down easily, and I shall certainly buy the next in the series as soon as it's out. All in all Drew is a great new addition to the ranks of YA fantasy heroes--and I recommend him to you most highly. 

Because of my all night marathon, I'm blaming Curtis for any new wrinkles--although I think they were probably worth it!  Talking of Curtis, he kindly agreed to answer what I hope is going to be an extra feature of these BBC 2011 reviews...cue atmospheric music:

The Burning Question
Warning: There may be the tiniest of Spoilers! 

SCC: “So, Curtis.  Were creatures have a long history stretching right back to ancient times when storytellers huddled round the fires and tried to make sense of a world full of scary ferocious beasts. Which myths or stories about weres did you first come across, and what in particular made you want to write about a were-shark?”

CJ: I've always loved the idea of the old storytellers rustling up tales that were meant to scare rather than soothe children to sleep. The Brothers Grimm are a fine example of cautionary tales that warn us to 'stay away from the woods', the wolf being the choice villain in many of their writings. It's not surprising that every culture around the world has their own variant of the lycanthrope myth, there's something universally terrifying about the werewolf that translates into every tongue. Fear has always been a healthy emotion to me, certainly in literature. When one reads a horror tale late at night and those telltale signs appear - a quickening heartrate, wary glances at the window and a reluctance to turn the page - it gives us a vicarious thrill, a reminder that we're still alive from the comfort of our dressing gowns, slippers and living rooms!

My first encounter with werewolves was through cinema - Lon Chaney Jr's "Wolfman", specifically - and he's still a timeless monster in the Universal Studios pantheon. Then it was on to "An American Werewolf in London" as I grew older, a huge pull for me with its marriage of horror and comedy. I love browsing through myths and legends on the subject, inevitably drawn back repeatedly to the French Beast of Gevaudan, as featured in the splendid movie "Le Pacte des Loups" (AKA "Brotherhood of the Wolf"). Also, the Welsh legend of Bedd Gelert has fascinated me since my childhood, a tragic tale that features a Prince making a grievous assumption and slaying his faithful wolfhound. Upon returning to his home he finds the dog standing over his baby's upturned crib, gore flecked about the room and blood covering the beast's jaws. He runs it through with his sword, stepping by to discover a wolf, slain by the dog, and when he turns the crib over he finds the child safely sheltered within. I love that kind of awful mistake, and that carries through into Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf.

Are we allowed to talk about Wereshark without a Spoiler Alert? ;-D [SCC: Don't worry, I've put one in!] Yes, the wider mythos of Wereworld allows me to play with just about any kind of creature, transforming it into a therianthrope according to the locale and the story. Setting a portion of the novel at sea meant that A Certain Shark Gentleman's delicious background wrote itself, although he isn't the only Sealord out there, as we'll discover in later books. There's something primal and monstrous about the shark, possibly more so than the wolf. Ask me which I'd rather take on in a scrap and the pooch would win paws down every time!

SCC: Thanks so much for visiting Scribble City Central, Curtis, and for giving such a full and fab answer to my Burning Question.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I love this review. I absolutely must read this book. Everyone loves it. You say it is tightly plotted. I think I could learn a thing or two from Mr Jobling. Thanks for joining in the British Books challenge.

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