Title: The Tiger and The Wolf
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Published: 11 February 2016
In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming.
Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She refuses to disown half her soul, so escapes, rescuing a prisoner of the Wolf clan in the process. The killer Broken Axe is set on their trail, to drag them back for retribution.
Maniye’s father plots to rule the north and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. Strangers from the far south appear too, seeking allies in their own conflict. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, and a darkness falling across the land. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. A time of testing and broken laws is near, but what spark will set the world ablaze?
After his historical fantasy Guns of the Dawn and hard SF Children of Time, Tchaikovsky has become one of those authors whose books I automatically seek out on release because it’s a guarantee that whatever he’s written will be fresh and fun. In The Tiger and The Wolf, he again demonstrates his versatility.
Protagonist Maniye struggles under the burden of being both Wolf and Tiger, and keeping her nature from her clan. While it’s a common trope for a lead character to be special or different in some way, Maniye does not enjoy the privileges of being a Chosen One, nor does she get special treatment due to being the only child of her clan’s chieftan. She knows that ultimately she must choose between the two sides of her soul or risk madness, and while surrounded by the clan she is completely alone.
When Maniye learns that her father plans to use her in a war which will ultimately see him raised to the position of High Chief over all wolves, Maniye flees, along with her father’s prisoner Hesprec of the Serpent. The Tiger and The Wolf is the story of her journey, which is both a physical, mental and emotional trek which tests every part of her being.
Told in turn both from Maniye’s perspective and that of her father, Akrit Stone River, as he pursues her and his agenda to become High Chief, it’s essentially a coming of age story; Maniye must find out who she is, what her true family is, what it means to belong, the meaning of friendship and the power she has over her destiny. It is also an intelligent and insightful exploration of a father-daughter relationship gone wrong through lack of love and lack of communication. Akrit, while ambitious, arrogant, and occasionally cruel and ignorant is never going to win any parenting awards, but he is not evil – in fact, it’s easy to see where Maniye gets her stubbornness, tenacity and strength to defy him from – and what Akrit perceives to be his possession’s continued and unrepentant humiliating disobedience push him to do unforgivable things. Maniye, like any one of us, may want with all her heart to belong, but she will not be owned.
In contrast, it’s both fascinating and heartwarming to see her relationship with Hesprec grow from one of mutual benefit to one where he becomes a friend and alternative father figure to her, and her occasional impatience and petulance with him combined with her protectiveness is exactly what would be expected from a young woman who has had no experience of normal paternal love.
Maniye’s journey takes her far beyond the borders of the Wolf’s land, and into contact with others from various clans including the Bear, Crocodile and Tiger. As well as learning about herself, Maniye learns about others, their cultures, traditions and beliefs, and that there is much more to the world than the Wolf and her father’s ambition.
Tchaikovsky’s writing is wonderfully evocative, bringing the wilds of Maniye’s world to icy and fiery life; this is a primal world of old grudges and freshly spilled blood, a brutal world of murder, magic and mayhem. It’s also a complex world, far wider than Maniye could have dreamed, in which empires have already risen and fallen, and in which politics in the far south may yet reach out and alter her own path.
The first in the forthcoming Echoes of the Fall trilogy, The Tiger and The Wolf also works well as a stand-alone story. A beautifully fierce fantasy about our need to belong and the importance of our choices, this is a coming of age tale with bite.
GS Rating: 4/5
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)