Wolfkin by Emily Veinglory – review

Rating: 7.5/10 ★★★★★★★½☆☆ Title: Wolfkin
Author: Emily Veinglory
Genre: Fantasy romance
URL: Samhain Publishing
Price:US $3.50
Other Information/warnings:explicit m/m (some in man/’wolf’ form)
Summary [from the publisher]: Arun is in training to be a priest of the Fire God when he is abruptly plucked from his peaceful studies, bespelled and staked out as bait to capture a monster—a wolfkin. But the wolfkin isn’t quite what Arun expected. He has a name, Trae, and he’s more man than beast. And from their first touch, they are far more than predator and prey to each other.
Instead of killing Arun, Trae spirits him away to the distant city of Shireen. There, on a family plot of land, they should have a good life together. But the spell that a witch cast on Arun is growing stronger, taking over—and it still wants to destroy the wolfkin.
Torn between the power of the spell and his love for Trae, Arun must face the darkness within him—or it will kill them both.

My review: I’d read good things about this novella, enough to make me set aside my dislike of the entire werewolf genre and the ‘fated mates’ plot device. I still can’t say, after reading this, that I would pick up another of this kind of story. I didn’t find it particularly enjoyable, but I did find it unusual.

Veinglory starts by subverting the ‘virgin on the rock’ motif to have a male virgin acolyte – Arun – staked out to catch a wolfkin (a werewolf by another name.) She catches the cold and impoverished environment, reflecting Arun’s passionless and sexless inner life, very well. Almost too well, because it’s actually verging on the repellent to read. Even the sex is cold and ugly, however much it sets Arun’s stifled libido humming.

This is not a typical romance at all. Arun and Trae don’t interact as lovers all that much, and their relationship is incredibly distant right up until the end. It’s very much about Arun, his world and his conflicts over religion and loyalties. Trae is the vehicle which delivers him to his destiny. None of the sex is ‘sexy’ as such because of the dark spell cast over Arun, which he must defeat before he can step into warmth and life.

Because it’s so atypical, it’s hard to assess it by normal romance standards. In fact, there’s no point. You shouldn’t read this for the relationship or the sex, but for the imagery and the idea, and the deeply twisted interactions between Arun and those using him for their own ends. It’s a strongly imagined work, though not an easy or comfortable read.

Stylistically, it’s frustrating. Veinglory has some startlingly powerful turns of phrase, and some astonishing description. But her actual prose feels too distant, too padded to me. I’ve read other things by her and had the same ‘it’s good but it’s not working for me’ feel, so I think I will have to accept that her style isn’t for me. Which is not the same as bad writing, let me hasten to add.

I didn’t like the switches in POV, especially towards the end. I felt they added little and weakened the storytelling. I also felt that Arun’s sister and brother-in-law were too thinly sketched to take up as much space as they did. I would have liked more of everything all over – more plot, more loving sex, more warm interactions to counteract the relentlessly cold and grim ones. I felt it was a story to admire more than adore, while recognising its well-wrought fantasy.

All in all, I’m glad I read it, even if it left me unsettled. If you like dark with your fantasy, and powerful descriptions, this could be the one for you.