If You Only Read One Fiction Book in 2020, Read This
The underrated fantasy novel took my breath away
If You Only Read One Fiction Book This Year, Read This
The underrated fantasy took my breath away
When I picked up Wolfsong by T J Klune, I didn’t have many expectations from the book. Sure, the back blurb promised a story of werewolves and people dealing with low self-esteem, PTSD, and abandonment issues, but I hadn’t heard of the author before.
I didn’t know what to look forward to.
Because of the gritty cover and the promise of werewolves, I had expected some kickass action, some gore, and lots of pining for lovers who are no longer there.
What I hadn’t expected was for this book to punch me right in the gut and take my breath away. And here I am, two days after I turned the last page, and I am still going over some scenes, re-reading my favourite parts, gushing over some dialogues as if I can’t get enough of them.
It’s been two days, and I am so crushed, I cannot even dare to pick up another book, even though the second book in this series is out which promises more time with my favourite characters.
It’s been two days, and I am still spellbound by the magic of T J Klune’s words, his brilliant characters, and the pearls of wisdom he scattered generously all across the novel.
“You’re not broken. You’re alive. If you can take another breath, if you can take another step, then you’re not broken. Battered, maybe. Bruised. Cracked. But never broken.”
This article is going to be about all the things that made me love this book so much (spoiler-free; don’t hesitate to read on) and why you should drop everything else on your list and pick this one up right away.
What This Book is About
I’ll be honest: this book began slow.
There was a lot of sadness in the form of the lonely and friendless fifteen-year-old Ox Mattheson who lives in Green Creek. His father wanted everything else in the world other than being his father. He damaged young Ox’s sense of self-esteem and instilled in him the feeling that no matter where he goes and what he achieves, he will never be enough.
“It’s always the ones who are the quietest who often have the greatest things to say.”
I am not a fan of books that leave me sad, and I was almost on the verge of dropping it when Joe Bennet appeared out of nowhere. Joe — the blond-haired, blue-eyed ten-year-old who met Ox on the dirt road leading home. The tornado who said he smelled of “Candy canes and pine cones. And epic and awesome.”
Who doesn’t love werewolves?
What Ox didn’t know was that Joe Bennet is a werewolf, destined to be the future Alpha and lead the Bennet pack — the most powerful family of werewolves in the whole of North America.
The Bennets bring colour into Ox’s life, and they paint the book in shades of orange, violet, blue, and green, green, green.
After Ox is formally inducted into the Bennet pack (he is still a human, but he develops a connection with each of the werewolves), his life begins to change. For the first time in years, he learns what it means to have a family, to be surrounded by people who love you, and Ox cannot believe how all of this is too good to be true.
When he is assailed by self-doubt, here is what Joe tells Ox-
“You don’t get to decide what you’re worth because you obviously don’t know. You don’t get to decide that anymore because you have no f*cking idea that you’re worth everything.”
Tragedy of epic proportions
But as it happens, tragedy strikes Green Creek, threatening to take away everything Ox holds dear — his Alpha, his mother, his pack, and most importantly, his mate.
The story is about how Ox deals with the ones who wish to take from him and how he evolves along the journey. There is magic, there is action, there is heartbreak of epic proportions.
And there is love. Oh, so much love.
“All I wanted to do was come home, because without you, I don’t have a home.”
Adding Life to the Prose
The narrative and the plot are terrific. But what brings life to the story are the unforgettable characters.
Each member of the Bennet pack — Joe’s brothers, Carter and Kelly, his father and the Aplha, Thomas, his mother, Elizabeth, and their uncle, Mark — has a role to play in how Ox develops into a man who can hold his own.
The humans in the book are remarkable too. Ox’s first girlfriend, Jessie, is spunky and brave. She lights up the narrative in each scene she appears with her bravery and unabashed honesty. Her brother, Chris, and his friends Rico and Tanner also have their quirks, and the chemistry they share with Ox is delightful.
The author has done a brilliant job is making each character unique. The wolf pack is depicted with such perfection — their own rules and tradition, how they revere their Alpha, and how Joe is trained to be the next in line.
Flawed, not perfect
As a reader, you can empathise with the mistakes the characters make. There are parts where you almost feel like going into the pages of the book and giving these characters a shake for the ways in which they were wasting their lives.
Sadly, you can only sigh and make faces at the book as you read on.
The story through time
The story begins when most of the lead characters are children, and ends when they are in their early twenties. I loved seeing each of the characters gain confidence and grow into their own as young men and women.
I am not exaggerating when I say this, but towards the end, it feels that the reader has also grown with these characters, leaving behind some of their naivete and embracing the harshness of the real world.
The Love Story
The blurb doesn’t do a good job of hiding it: Ox has feelings for the little boy, Joe, he meets on the dirt road. Yes, there is an age gap of five years, but their love never feels strangled or forced. It flows like honey, every word, every whispered wish sounding as real as if these weren’t fictional characters, but actual people you knew in real life.
Their love blossoms over a period of seven years — from the time Joe was the ten-year-old tornado who climbed up on Ox’s back sniffing him all over, till he becomes the handsome seventeen-year-old Alpha with muscles in places that leave Ox unable to think straight.
“And I’ve been waiting for him to look at me like I looked at him. And he finally did. He finally did. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it stays like that. Because I want him for always.”
This infatuation blossoms into love as they spend time together. But, when they are forced to separate, it burns into an inferno threatening to consume them whole.
But when Joe comes back, no longer an innocent blue-eyed boy, the true depth of their bond is tested. Having faced so much together and apart, the two understand that there is nothing they want more in the world than to be with each other.
“You’re not going. You’re going to stay here because I love you more than anything in this goddamn world and I don’t fucking care if you’re pissed. I don’t care if you hate me because of it. As long as I know you’re safe, then that’s all that matters.”
Why You Should Read It
Even if you are not a fan of fantasy fiction, you should read this book for the heartwarming story it tells.
Read it for the family and pack values the Bennets inspire, for how willing they are to sacrifice their lives, so their loved ones remain safe, and how they think of nothing else but family, love, brother, pack when they face danger.
Read it because the chemistry between the characters is so real, and some scenes are so hilarious, they will make you snort.
Read it because these characters are the best, most lovingly fleshed-out ones I have ever had the privilege to meet in a book.
Read it because the whole book is a song. You may think you are reading a novel, but you will be reading poetry disguised as prose.
Read it because it will make you feel emotions you didn’t even know you were capable of. It will touch your heart, rip it right out of your chest, and put it back in, overwhelmed and happy at the same time.
Read it for the edge-of-the-seat excitement of the final battle scene — all the blood and gore and the immense strength of will each character shows.
But most of all, read this book for Ox and Joe. Read it for the pure, unadulterated love they share and how their bond grows and evolves as they age.
The last time I felt this strongly about a book was when I was thirteen-years-old and a fan of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Wolfsong made me feel those exact feelings, but stronger, because I am no longer a teenager. I am a grown woman, but I was fangirling each time Joe and Ox shared a private moment. I loved their chemistry so much, I went to Pinterest and looked up fan art because I just couldn’t have enough of them.
What I feel can only be truly expressed by this quote from T J Klune himself-
“Sometimes, when your heart gets so full, it takes away your voice and all you can do is hold on for dear life.”
I’ve read 750+ books in my life and 50 books so far this year. Trust me, I am not exaggerating when I say Wolfsong is the best fiction I read in 2020 and my favourite shape-shifter novel of all time.
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