I would like to preface this by saying that I won this book through Goodreads Giveaways. Yes, that’s right. I got this for free. And I got it for free just by clicking a few buttons on goodreads.com (the closest thing to a bible for a non-religious bibliophile such as myself).
Now this review is going to be very similar to the one I posted on Goodreads. I’m actually going to copy and paste it, and make some adjustments. I want to stay true to how I felt in the hour after finishing this book.
First things first, a little run down of the plot.
It starts off with the main character, Ciaran Connolly, out for a night on the town. Where he promptly stalks, and murders a man for insulting the lovely Sabine, a woman that he just met. This first impression did not serve to endear Ciaran to me, though my feelings toward him did improve by the end of the book.
He then reminisces on the events leading up to, and following his lycanthropic infection. Really, anyone who goes on a hike in the mountains, alone, on a moonlit night, deserves to be attacked by a werewolf. After living through the change, he meets his new mentor Kraven, who gives him the run down on the gift he’s been given, and lays down the rules of werewolf life.
Ciaran then goes on with his regular, student lifestyle, enjoying lycanthropy and all that it brings. But a quiet, peaceful life is rarely on the cards for the protagonist in any novel, let alone an urban fantasy novel. So, wackiness ensues. Witches and werewolf hunters join the mix. Sabine makes a reappearance. And Kraven goes off the deep end.
And that is all I’m going to say on the plot. I’m here to express my personal feelings towards the story, not re-write it in my own words.
I thoroughly enjoyed Diary of the Wolf. I did find it a little hard to get into at first. I found myself putting it down after a paragraph or two, then picking it up hours later. Ciaran’s nonchalance towards cold blooded murder didn’t help matters much. But, once I was finally pulled into the story, I ripped through it in an afternoon (whilst spending time with my mother, who was in town for a visit).
I read a lot of urban fantasy novels. Sometimes, I even prefer them to straight up fantasy. It is easier to imagine yourself in the story when it is written in a real-world setting. That way, I can pretend that maybe, just maybe, one day I could become a werewolf too.
Despite being well read in the genre, I found Diary of the Wolf to be quite different from most of the other books I’ve read. This could be due to the setting. Ireland, a beautiful land that could make even the most sceptical person believe in magic and fairies. Most of the books I tend to read are set in the US, though Canadian, Australian, and occasionally English settings aren’t uncommon. Or it could be due to the distinctly male voice of the protagonist. After reading Diary of the Wolf, it occurred to me that most of the books I read happen to be written by female authors, usually about female characters. So, Whelan’s take on the genre was a refreshing change.
Whatever the cause, it worked.
What I liked most about the book was the descriptiveness of the writing. From the physical sensations and changes associated with lycanthropy, to the people and places, Whelan’s descriptions were fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the transformation from human to werewolf at the start of the book. It was intriguing, distinctive, and the perfect mix of simple and illustrative.
For example, on page 24, “Under the moonlight, the veins on my right arm pulsed a deep dark black that spread out further to my fingertips. My whole arm looked like there was hot tar flowing under the surface. The pain became curious, unique and indescribable. As the sensation built to a sprinkling crescendo, the veins started to change colour, spreading down my arm as if diluting.”
Reading this, I could almost feel the pain, the heat in my arm. I always enjoy werewolf books that portray the somatic experience of the change. A simple “ouch, that hurts” isn’t usually enough for me. I want the author to paint me a painful, and even grotesque picture of how the character feels in that moment. Which is something I thought Whelan excelled at in this novel.
I enjoyed the storyline as well. To me, there was a touch of sameness to it, though that is to be expected for someone who has been reading exclusively within this genre, and the related genres for years. Although I haven’t purchased it yet, I am looking forward to see how Whelan will continue the storyline in book two.
As for the negatives, I did think the dialogue needed a little bit of work. It seemed a bit forced at times. It was in no way bad, it just needed a bit of fine tuning. Though, who knows. That could just be how they speak in Ireland. I was only there for a few weeks, five years ago, I don’t remember every conversation I had.
There was also very little in the way of character development. Though that is understandable in such a short book (I like big books, and I cannot lie). I am hoping that there will be more of this in the rest of the series.
Overall, I am extremely glad that I won this book. And not just because I like free things, or because getting a parcel with an Irish stamp made me feel sentimental about my time travelling around the country. But because as a whole, I considered Diary of the Wolf to be a great read. It wasn’t one of my favourites, that list is already remarkably full, but I would certainly read it again. And I am looking forward to the continuation of the series.
I encourage other lovers of Ireland, werewolves, and urban fantasy novels to give Diary of the Wolf a try. For those who take my recommendation, or who have already read this novel, please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, and even criticisms on the book, or on my review.