The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Tiger and the WolfHaving just read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s contribution to the Monstrous Little Voices book (which I loved) I was very keen to pick this book up, plus, who am I kidding, the whole idea of shapeshifting tribes combined with the beautiful cover, I was simply hooked.
The story is really a coming of age tale set in the bleak North where life is harsh, temperatures are harsher and war seems to be imminent.  The world here is one of clans who can shift into the form of an animal depending on the tribe’s totem and in this respect the book includes many different forms of animal, even fantastical creatures such as dragons.
At the start of the story we are introduced to Maniye.  Maniye’s father, Akrit, is the chief of the Wolf clan.  He’s an ambitious man who keeps a harsh rule over his tribe.  Akrit now looks to expand his realm and his eye is fixed on that of the Tiger clan.  The two have warred in the past and the peace between them is very fragile.  Using his daughter Akrit plans to make the tiger clan bow to his rule and in doing so hopes to become the automatic choice to lead all the wolf tribes.
Maniye is something of an outcast.  The tribe have a cold dislike of her and don’t see her as one of their own and her own father seems to deeply resent her – not only for the fact that she is his only child, and a female, but because of her own biological make-up.  Her mother being from the Tiger clan has left her with a strange inheritance and warring souls.  Maniye can shift into both Wolf and Tiger forms, an ability that she must hide from her clan as they would tear her apart.  She must however choose one in order for her body to find some peace from the conflicting demands of having two animal’s souls constantly striving for dominance within her. Unfortunately, after passing the tribe’s initiation ceremony into adulthood, Maniye finally learns of her father’s true plans for her and in a moment of rebellion she runs away.  Of course her rebellion is a shattering blow in itself but Maniye also releases a prisoner who she takes with her.  Hesprec, a man of the snake clan and a priest.  Captured by the wolves this man was to be sacrificed to the wolf god.  Desperate and fearing his control slipping Maniye’s father sends a man called Broken Axe in pursuit of his daughter.   Broken Axe is a lone wolf, a murderer and a man who holds the fear and respect of the tribe.  He is also the man who murdered Maniye’s mother at the request of Akrit and he is now on her trail.
It’s at this point that we’re introduced to a number of other characters.  Asmander comes from the south and is the champion of his tribe which means he can shift not only into the animal of his clan (a crocodile) but can also take on the form of an unnamed beast.  He has his own reasons for travelling to the cold north that I won’t divulge.  Asmander is accompanied by a man called Venateer.  Of the dragon clan Venateer is now Asmander’s slave following his defeat in battle and the loss of his name.  He stays with Asmander in the hope of regaining his name and status and the relationship between the two is tense and angry.  The two are accompanied along the way by a female called Shyri who can shift into a hyena and seems to have joined their adventure purely to cause mischief.
I really enjoyed The Tiger and the Wolf however I did have a few niggles.  I think the story gets off to a fairly slow start although personally I enjoyed the set up and thought the gradual build up helped to give us a good idea of Maniye’s standing within the clan and also helped me to understand why she felt the need to run away.  What I did struggle a little with was a slight feeling of going around in circles during her flight and also what felt like something of a never ending display of small fights between different clans that felt a bit unnecessary on occasion.  It also feels like there’s an awful lot going on in terms of characters.  They certainly are an unusual bunch to bring together.  A wolf, snake, crocodile, hyena, dragon and eventually a bear (Loud Thunder).  Not to mention other clans who play brief roles such as the horse and bird clan and also the tigers who are at war with the wolves.  All these tribes have their own culture, religious beliefs and means of survival but there are so many introduced into the story that it would be impossible to thoroughly explore all of them which left me wanting a little more.   I understand that this is a trilogy though so it’s possible these other clans will undergo further exploration in the next instalments.
In terms of the characters, clearly Maniye takes centre stage.  At this point I feel a little so so about her  and I think that hit me most during the final scenes when I was more concerned and interested in reading about what was taking place with some of her companions and the conflicts they were experiencing rather than feeling over anxious about what was taking place with Maniye.  Strangely enough I think Broken Axe was my favourite character.  He has a surly stubborn streak and although he appears quite fearsome there’s more to him than at first meets the eye.  I also really liked Hesprec and Loud Thunder – both really interesting characters with intriguing clans and back stories that I would have liked to take a deeper look into.
I think the Tiger and the Wolf is very well written and contains some wonderful and unique concepts.  I think it suffers a little from having such a lot to introduce within the timeframe involved.  Personally I didn’t particularly love all the fighting between the clans which seems to happen quite regularly and spontaneously but I figure the author is showing us the animal nature of these characters so whilst I probably would have liked less I can see the point and also I’m guessing that other readers will probably love those elements of the story and would probably balk at anything less.  There’s certainly no lack of action and I think that will definitely appeal.
Overall this is a really good read with some incredibly unusual flights of fancy and very emotive writing.  This is an author who can really make you feel the cold, the hunger and the despair of his characters.  Very evocative writing and a world that I would love to explore further.  Wrap up warm, grab a mug of something hot and tuck in!
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Review first appears at The Speculative Herald.

9 Responses to “The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky”

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I really need to read his books. Shame this hasn’t made it to the US yet, because I’d really wouldn’t mind checking it out! I like the sounds of animal clans and the idea of having animals souls within. If it’s a first book, I can see the later books filling out more of the lore and world building.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a really good concept and unique,at least to me anyway. I think there’s a lot to get across in one book and maybe some of the story could have been a bit more condensed to allow more world building but it’s a first book so there’s time yet.

  2. Tammy

    This sounds fascinating, and I love anything to do with animals and shapeshifters. Although I was a little confused as you were explaining everything, so maybe you’re right about there being a little too much in the story.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha. That’s probably more because of my explanation tbh. I don’t think you’d find it confusing at all although there is a lot going on and not really enough room in one book to flesh everything out. This is the second book I’ve read by this author now and I do like his writing style.

  3. jessicabookworm

    I have been hearing good things about this book and I love that gorgeous cover!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a really good concept. And, yes, the cover is gorgeous.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The premise is a fascinating one and I believe I might enjoy this book: since hearing about it a few days ago I checked a few reviews on GoodReads and some readers did complain about the initial slowness, but I think the story itself is worth some patience…

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think it’s a really original concept. I love the author’s style. I had a couple of quibbles but I think it has room for plenty of growth in the next instalments. I would have preferred less action/fighting and a bit more world building because I think there’s a lot to explore but it’s a good start.
      Lynn 😀

  5. February: My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky […]

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