My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I became a huge fan of Robert McCammon’s when I was in high school. I came across ‘The Wolf’s Hour’ in the local library where I was drawn to the cover of the book; the snarling black wolf with green eyes.
And, so I read it with glee, not understanding so much the underlying WWII/Nazism story, but I loved it.
It’s been around 20 years since I last read it, and now as an adult I can say this time I didn’t enjoy it quite as much.
I found paper thin characterisation, some areas of the book which plodded along with nothing happening, and a number of loose ends and plot holes that even now bug the hell out of me.
But, what is the story about?
Well, it’s about a man named Michael Gallatin, a man born of Russian aristocracy, who as a young child witnesses the murder of his parents during which he is bitten by a wolf. Of course, it’s not a normal wolf, it’s a werewolf.
With the wolf’s venom in his veins, and the inevitability of death, the wolves take him to their den where he learns they are in fact human. In time, the venom takes hold and The Change begins. This part of the story is wonderfully told and is different than any other werewolf novel or short story I’ve read.
The Change takes weeks – months perhaps – and happens gradually as the body is weakened to the point of death. The bones crack and crunch as the body twists and contorts into excruciating positions. In fact, young Michael’s death is almost expected given his age and apparent weakness. However, he (obviously) survives and becomes a werewolf.
As the years pass, he learns what it takes to become both a man, and a wolf. He hunts with the pack, comes to love them, and to accept both parts of himself.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book is set in 1948 when Michael is now a British Agent (yes, like James Bond) and is tasked with stopping an attack on Britain by Germany.
This is where we get into James Bond-y territory but without the same excitement which makes James Bond so much fun. As a result, you’re left with a terrific story relative to him becoming a werewolf, but a sub-standard spy story filled with cardboard characters.
You know when you read a book and you have those “Oh, shit!” moments? You have a number of those moments in the werewolf backstory, but none in the spy story and as a result you’re hoping for the next chapter where you can go back to the werewolf characters and Michael’s time in Russia.
I still rate Robert very highly as a writer. I’ve read a number of his books and enjoyed each one – even this one, overall. But if you’re looking for a pure werewolf novel, this probably isn’t the one I’d recommend.