I am really excited to be involved in the Wereworld "7 Realms, 7 Beasts" blog tour, taking place over the next week or so to celebrate the release of Shadow of the Hawk, the third book in Curtis Jobling's fab Wereworld series. My review of the book will follow a few words from Curtis, but by way of introduction to the great man, a short explanation about format of the tour is called for. In Shadow of the Hawk we get to see more of the amazing world Curtis has created, and even more importantly we get to meet more Werelords. Each day on the blog tour Curtis is going to introduce you to one of his new creations. He started off yesterday at I Want To Read That, so pop on over there once you have finished reading to find out more. For now, it's over to Curtis:
KRIEG, THE WERERHINO
One of the most experienced fighters of the Scorian arena, Krieg is the Furnace’s oldest surviving performing gladiator. The Rhino hails from the Blue Veldt Plains, one of Bast’s most ancient, settled lands. When the Catlords of the jungle marched south from their home, enslaving all who stood in their way, the Rhinos of Stroheim provided the greatest resistance. Krieg was the eldest son of King Otker, but his regal heritage counted for nothing when the Catlords exacted their vengeance upon the Rhinos. Taking away in chains of silver, Krieg was sold to the Lizardlords, a gift to Ignus’ arena for the amusement of the people of Scoria.
Every bit the image of a Rhino, even when in human form, Krieg’s neck is all but invisible, his head set deep within the thick folds of tough skin that cover his broad shoulders. His wide nose appears broken, flattened against his hard face, a trait particular to all of the Wererhinos, heavy horns ready to emerge at the moment’s notice. Renowned for having a fierce temper, Krieg long ago gave up all hope of returning to his homeland. Having been imprisoned for nearly twenty years, it seems unlikely Stroheim bears any resemblance to the city he was spirited away from in his youth.
Author’s note: Krieg steps into a familiar role for Drew, that of the ‘uncle’ he can confide in, turn to in times of need. While Duke Bergan and Duke Manfred were able to provide counsel in the earlier books of the series, taking a liking to him instantly, it’s more of an uphill struggle in the case of the Rhino. They’re from different worlds, with very different stories to tell, but their common ground – prisoners of Lord Ignus, enemies of the Catlords – ensure there’s room for their relationship to grow. In Drew, Krieg can see a lot of himself, albeit from many years ago, and with a remarkably different outlook. Being a grumpy old Rhino, he sees Drew as idealistic, a dreamer, little realising that the young Wolf’s determination runs deeper than that of anyone he’s ever met. Having a hot-headed ally who is as stubborn as a mule isn’t going to make life easy for Drew: he’s going to have to earn the Rhino’s respect. If that means he has to fight him, then so be it...
Huge thanks to Curtis for taking the time to write this for us. On Monday the tour will be continuing with an introduction to another Werelord, over at A Dream of Books. You should also head on over to Spinebreakers where you could win a signed set of the three Wereworld books that have been released so far.
DREW FERRAN, THE RIGHTFUL KING OF WESTLAND, IS TRAPPED.
Enslaved by the Goatlord Kesslar, young werewolf Drew finds himself on the volcanic isle of Scoria, forced to fight in the arena for the Lizardlords. With the help of an unlikely ally, he must find a way to break free - but who has ever managed to escape?
Meanwhile, Hector the Wereboar flees the forces of the Catlords. Now on board the pirate ship Maelstrom, the enemy's net is closing in. Haunted by the spirits of the dead, Hector is soon left wondering who the true enemy is . . .
Be warned, reader. I will try my hardest not to include any spoilers about Shadow of the Hawk in this review, but I cannot promise the same about the previous two books in the series. If you have not yet read them then you may want to look away now.
It is no secret that I love the first two Wereworld books. The first was brilliant, and the second, Rage of Lions, even better. So much so that it made it into my list of top picks of 2012. I know that many others share my admiration for these books - so no pressure then Mr Jobling.
Did I say pressure? The man must thrive on it as Shadow of the Hawk is yet another outstanding addition to the series, the only downside being that having finished I am now thoroughly annoyed that I won't be able to find out what happens next until the fourth book, Nest of Serpents, is published in June.
There is very little time in the story between the close of the last book, and where this one kicks off. Drew is held captive by the evil Kessler, a Weregoat who has made a name for himself as a slaver. He has only one plan for Drew - to deliver him to the Isle of Scoria and sell him as a slave. Meanwhile, his close friend Hector has managed to escape the armies of the Catlords, and is safely on board the Maelstrom, in the company of Manfred, Vega and Queen Amelie. I say safely, but that isn't strictly true - his dabbling in the dark arts is beginning to have quite an effect on the young Wereboar, but more about that later.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we are granted the opportunity to 'meet' a whole host of new Werecreatures in this book, and Curtis Jobling maximises this treat for his readers by taking his characters off to different places, just as Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings. In The Fellowship of the Ring we are introduced to the lead characters, and then in The Two Towers Frodo and Sam head off for Mordor, whilst Pip and Merry are taken in a dfifferent direction by the Orcs. These diverging story strands enabled Tolkien to show us more of the incredible world he created, and Curtis uses a smiliar device in this book. Therefore, we get to meet a plethora of new characters on Scoria, where the enslaved Drew is forced to become a gladiator; and we also get to see other parts of Lyssia and its seven realms, and its inhabitants, as Drew and his party head out across the ocean. Mr Jobling seems to manage all of these new additions to his story with consummate ease.
Now that he is away from the friends he made in the first two books, we really get a chance to see how Drew grows as both a character, and as the rightful heir to the kingdom of Lyssia. His life has changed in a way that few young people can identify with - from farm boy, to prospective king, to slave/gladiator, all in a matter of months. Most young people would find this impossible to cope with, but the honest and loving upbringing that Drew experienced seems to have given him the foundations he needs to take all of this in his stride. In the first two books there were many moments where he suffered extreme (and totally understandable) self-doubt, but there were a few key scenes where his natural gift for good and kind leadership shone through. In this third book these moments begin to occur a little more often and we are now really beginning to see the potential king that lies within the boy. Drew also seems to be becoming more confident at leading, even to the point where he will lecture one of the realm's other kings about the evils of slavery. A king, it must be said, who could quite easily have Drew slapped in silver chains and executed for his disrespectful words.
Whilst all this is going on, there is of course the other plot strand running - that of Hector and his companions. I am sorry to say that the future is looking fairly bleak for Hector - he is now firmly attached to the vile of his dead brother Vincent, a spectre that is invisible to all except Hector, and who never misses a chance to goad his brother, gradually eating away at his self-esteem. It was a horribly fascinating experience to read as Hector slowly seems to descend into a kind of madness, the flames of his growing paranoia constantly fanned by Vincent's cruel taunts. Who knows where Curtis Jobling will take Hector next? Perhaps even betrayal of the people he called close friends? We will just have to wait and see.
There are two popular characters from the first two books in the series that are conspicuous by their absence in Shadow of the Hawk. Gretchen and Whitley also managed to escape the grasping claws of the Catlords at the end of the last book, but for the story of their adventures since we will have to wait until June. If you have seen the cover of Nest of Serpents you will probably have already guessed that they will feature quite heavily in that story. I guess Mr Jobling could quite easily have used their story as a third plot strand in Shadow of the Hawk, but instead he chose to focus on Trent Ferran, the son of the couple who brought up Drew as their son, and as good as being Drew's brother. As we discovered at the end of Rage of Lions, Trent is hungry for revenge on the creature he believes murdered his mother, and so we see him now riding with the armies of the Catlords, hunting and killing enemies of the new state. Will he find out the truth before it is too late, or will it all end in tears for the angry young man?
If there was a book award going for best series then Curtis Jobling would surely be on the shortlist, and if he won I for one would applaud the decision of the judges. If he manages to sustain the quality of storytelling across the remaining books in the series then the Wereworld books may one day become recognised as one of the best fantasy series for young people of all time.