THE WOLF MILE by C.F. Barrington (BOOK REVIEW)
The Pantheon is a world-wide game, funded by the wealthy elite and talked about in hushed whispers by the general population, a source of unending speculation and entertainment. For the players, however, it is life and death. In the streets of Edinburgh, the Titans rule the roofs, while the Horde of Valhalla make the tunnels and underground spaces of the city their own. At appointed times of the year, the two forces meet, and blood is spilled as they each battle for dominance.
Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron do not seem obvious candidates to join the ranks of the horde. Tyler has not fully recovered from a brutal beating that almost cost him the use of one arm and leg, while Lana is grieving a loss from her past. Yet, both of them are approached in the street and invited to join the Horde of Valhalla.
The rules of the Pantheon are shrouded in mystery, only revealed to the candidates a little at a time, and the reader discovers the motives and background of Tyler and Lana in the same way. The first section of the book is concerned with the recruitment and selection process, and we watch the two main characters train and fight their way to the fitness and ruthlessness required of Viking warriors, Tyler hoping to find clues to the whereabouts of his missing sister, while Lana is trying to put her painful past behind her.
The second part of the book shows us more of the reality of the Pantheon and the Horde, after Lana and Tyler have won their places amongst the ranks. I really enjoyed the challenges set during this part of the book and the mysteries faced when an antagonist is revealed, however for me, the story faltered a little here. I found the antagonist’s actions and motives unconvincing, and the tone shifted quite drastically from the first half of the book without much warning. Having said that, Barrington does well to convey a sense of danger and uncertainty about who is trustworthy.
The book is well-written, fast paced and engaging throughout. It’s the first of a planned trilogy, with the next book due out soon – which comes as a relief, since this book does not stand alone. In fact, it ends at a key point in the action without a resolved story arc. While I’m happy to wait until future books for the story to be resolved, I did feel that the break does not come at an ideal point; it does not feel like a natural resting place to leave the characters until we can return to their adventures.
This is a strong debut by a skilled author and I look forward to seeing what he does next.