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Book Review: Wolfborn

Wolfborn, the young adult novel written by Sue Bursztynski and published by Woolshed, an imprint of Random House Australia, was inspired by the 12th century romance Lai Le Bisclavret by Marie de France. It is the story of Etienne, son of a lord, sent to a neighbouring holding, Lucanne, to complete his education. While there, Etienne discovers a secret about the lord of Lucanne that will have significant consequences.
        Set in the region of Armorique, the world of Wolfborn is a world like ours, but not quite. It is a world where it is legal to be a werewolf, and where magic is, if not commonplace, accepted and used.  As well as a tale of mystery and adventure, Wolfborn is a coming of age story with the characters negotiating powerful emotions, and with Etienne required to confront his worst fear to save his love.
        Sue Bursztynski quickly sets the scene and builds a fine sense of tension. The characters are realistic, experiencing moments of doubt and fear, as well as courage and conviction.  The writing is smooth and clear, the kind of writing that looks easy but, believe me, is not.
         I particularly liked Sue Bursztynski's unusual take on wolf lore, and enjoyed learning about the difference between a bisclavret (one who is born a werewolf naturally) and a loup garou (a werewolf who has bargained with the Dark Lord for his wolf powers, and is therefore evil).
          There is a strong sense throughout of the importance of storytelling, with characters repeatedly bringing each other up to date with what has been happening, telling them stories in other words. There is a sense that storytelling connects us, and that it is through stories that we understand the world.
          As well as werewolves, there are fairies and a unicorn, and a guest appearance by the Wild Hunt. What more could you ask for?

My young adult (13 years old) also read the book. Here is what he says: I liked how the story and the world had its own lore and culture. I also liked the times when the characters moved through to the magical Otherworld, and that the Otherworld was, in quite a lot of ways, connected with the normal one. I was quite intrigued with the different depictions of the god Kernun. I would have liked to have had a first person view of being a bisclavret, but that might not be possible because a wolf thinks nothing like a human. I'd like to read more about this world.


Wolfborn can be ordered from here.