The Sight #1. Author: David Clement-Davies.
In the shadow of an abandoned castle, a wolf pack seeks shelter. The she-wolf’s pups will not be able to survive the harsh Transylvanian winter. And they are being stalked by a lone wolf, Morgra, possessed of a mysterious and terrifying power known as the Sight. Morgra knows that one of the pups born beneath the castle holds a key to power even stronger than her own power that could give her control of this world and the next. But the pack she hunts will do anything to protect their own, even if it means setting in motion a battle that will involve all of nature, including the creature the wolves fear the most: Man.
I’ve never before read a book that managed to combine middle-grade writing, bloody slaughter, and a slightly disturbing mix of different classical and religious references.
To be fair, the first of those is a personal thing. Lots of readers don’t care much about writing style. But the flow of the prose, the author’s voice, is an important part of my own reading experience. And The Sight has rough, simple prose that tells rather than shows.
(Clement-Davies even seems to have trouble keeping track of his own made-up words. Dragga and Drappa are first introduced as the leading male and female of a pack; essentially, the old idea of alpha. However, he goes on to refer to “packs of dragga”, to have the leading wolf scold a half-grown youngling and ask him if he’s “a dragga or not”, and to have a mother refer to her young pup as a drappa. So… does it mean alpha, or does it just mean male and female?)
The characterization goes right along the “tell not show” inversion in the writing; I never really connected to Larka or Fell, or any other characters, because they’re all so flat. There are no layers, contradicting personality traits, or hidden depths. What you see is what you get. On the up side, what you get is a classic fantasy tradition:
Young heroine Larka, the Chosen One foretold by ancient prophecy, must learn to use her magic powers (the Sight) in time to battle villain Morgra and stop the destruction foretold by the aforementioned ancient prophecy.
That’s the very core of the story.
Just add in some side-plots with a giant eagle, forays into the afterlife adapted straight out of Greek myth, her family trying to survive the force of fate, her siblings learning their own lessons, aaand all the weird stuff at the end. (Spoiler warning for the ending):
Sexual Content: There are three different instances of pregnant wolves/children, but the precursor to this is skipped, so no real content.
Language: 4 d****
Violence: There are multiple instances of wolves hunting and killing prey: ripping out a deer’s throat, and harrying a buffalo for days until it gives up, are the two main incidents, but smaller prey is also killed. Wolf falls into a spiked pit-trap and dies. A pregnant wolf is swept away by the river she’s fording, and killed on the rocks. One wolf is swept under the ice of a frozen river and drowns. One wolf dies in a forest fire. A wolf stumbles into camp dying, torn all over, with both ears ripped off. Two wolves die falling from a cliff. There are two scenes of wholesale slaughter, wherein many wolves battle each other, and there is general blood and death. Other death: two cubs are stillborn.
(To avoid specific spoilers: two characters thought dead are later revealed alive. I consider that in terms of possibly disturbing violence, their deaths still stand.)
Other: There is a good bit of religious imagery used. Several wolf-legends are clearly based on Christianity and the coming of Christ (The Sight is not at all, however, a Christian book. In fact, several characters in the end revoke their belief in these legends) ; a foreign wolf references something that sounds much like Zoroastrianism; and at the very end it becomes clear that the world of The Sight is founded on dualism, the idea that Good and Evil are two equal forces locked in eternal battle, and which in the end cannot exist without each other.