City of Wolves by Willow Palecek
I confess I was drawn to City of Wolves initially by the amazing cover. It really is an eye catching creation. The book itself is a gas lamp fantasy story, set, I think in an alternate Victorian London (Lupenwald) and containing a murder mystery at the heart of the tale.
At the start of the story we make the acquaintance of Alexander Drake who is about to be strong armed into taking a job that he wouldn’t normally countenance. Alexander is a private investigator and put bluntly he doesn’t as a rule take work from the nobility as it usually ends in a heap of trouble and never goes according to plan. Unfortunately the payment for the job now in question is rather lucrative and not one that Alexander can easily turn his nose up at and so he finds himself once again working for the landed gentry as he looks into the potential murder of a Lord who seems to have died without a will – and a number of beneficiaries! As Alexander goes from one life threatening scene to the next it soon becomes obvious why he doesn’t take on work for nobles.
This is only a short story (perhaps 100 pages) so I won’t elaborate further on the plot as it would potentially contain spoilers.
What did I like about City of Wolves. Well, I enjoyed the introduction to this particular world, I thought it was a fast paced read and there was plenty of well described action. I think the world could be a very interesting one and I also feel like Alexander is a character that I could come to like very much if given more time. I think that the City and its history holds a lot of potential.
I would say that the title of the story is quite clever. It could refer to the history of the place described here in which we find out about a civil war that took place in the past and effectively split the country or it could also refer to the fantasy element of the story.
In terms of criticisms. I didn’t really feel like I had enough time to get to know Alexander and at this point I confess that I really don’t have a handle on him. I think he could be a really interesting character but at this stage he is only very thinly drawn. The mystery was fairly easily and quickly resolved so that element of the story felt a little bit flat – in fact the main concentration, I would say, is on the action with chases and the like and the reveal. In fairness, with a story this length it is difficult to try and accomplish everything and in a way I think it’s a shame that this was only 100 pages long as it could easily have been expanded upon in a way that contained deeper characterisation and world building without losing any of the pace.
As it is, I quite enjoyed the read, it was quick and easy to get to grips with but I would say it had a definite feel of an introductory novel. I hope that is the case and we can expect more so that the author has a chance to expand upon the world and characters introduced here. I would read further if it turns out that this is the case and City of Wolves is just our introduction to this world.
I received a copy of City of Wolves from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.