Truth. Order. Moderation.
- Nov 10, 2008
- nearly the New Forest
Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Tiger and the Wolf is a fantasy novel, the first in a series, published 2016 by Pan Macmillan. 590 pages in large (5" x 7¾") paperback.
Maniye belongs to the Wolf, which means that, like the rest of her father's Winter Runner tribe, she can instantly Step into a wolf's form, taking on all the animal's attributes. But she also belongs to the Tiger, for she is the product of rape -- her mother was captured in battle, forced to bear a child, then taken away to be killed -- so she can also become a tiger. These two souls possess Maniye, but while she lives with the tribe she must keep the cat hidden, for Wolf and Tiger are mortal enemies.
Wolf tribes are led by dominant males, and two men may fight to the death to be chieftain, but tigers are led by a queen, whose daughter will follow her. Maniye's mother was Queen of the Shadow Eaters, so, her father believes, Maniye is entitled to the throne. Now Maniye is 14 and has passed her Testing to become an adult, he plots for her to claim her inheritance. He will then rule both his own tribe -- and, he intends, eventually the whole Wolf clan -- and, through Maniye, the tigers, giving him unprecedented power. This, Maniye could accept, but his further plan terrifies her, for to ensure her obedience and adherence to the Wolf, she is to become the wife of Broken Axe, undefeated warrior, lone wolf, and her mother's executioner.
So Maniye runs, taking with her a Serpent priest who was to be a sacrifice to the Wolf -- he has left his own lands far to the south, seeking other priests and adepts of foreseeing, in order to uncover the danger he fears is coming to the world. As they escape through the winter of the cold northern wastes, pursued by Broken Axe, they meet with Horse traders and Bears, and friendships and alliances are formed. They also encounter other travellers from the far south, on their own perilous journey, and, in due course, the Shadow Eaters themselves. Maniye faces danger and betrayal, but the greatest threat is the one contained within, for the two souls possessing Maniye fight for dominance, and unless she can control them, their war will destroy her.
The Tiger and the Wolf can be seen as a coming-of-age story, as Maniye learns of the greater world outside the confines of her tribe, and as she comes to terms with her tiger and wolf souls. But it isn't a YA novel, for despite her age Maniye is an adult within the terms of the novel, and all the other characters, both good and bad, are older than she is, many of them much older. And -- fortunately -- there's no love interest, no extended angsting, no sexual awakening, no rebellion against the adult realm. On the other hand, it isn't an "adult" novel. No sex or sexual violence is seen on the page, though it's off-screen and alluded to; there's physical abuse, brutality and bloodshed and threats of worse, but there's no revelling in it; no bodily functions, not even any foul language. It isn't a sanitised world, though; just one which sees no glory in grimdarkness.
And it's a world which is wonderfully drawn, from the heat of the Sun River Nation which is part Meso-america, part Egypt, through the plains of the Laughing People, all the way to the Canadian Arctic-like cold of the Crown of the World, and Tchaikovsky peoples it with crocodile, lizard, hyena, boar, deer, hawk and owl, all of whom are human but wear their animal natures even before they Step. Variety is expressed not only in the difference of clan animal and colour of skin, but in every aspect of their lives, their food, their clothes, their houses -- burrowed into the ground, worked in wood or in stone -- and most of all in their weapons. The southerners have jade and obsidian flakes embedded in wooden clubs, tigers and others have bronze, but only Maniye's own people have learned how to make the "Wolf wood" which allows them to smelt iron for their knives and arrowheads. The smelting and charcoal burning is also bound up in their shamanistic priesthood and ceremonies, and in their beliefs and their gods. And these gods are alive to their people -- Maniye feels the Wolf's breath as he watches her escape, she sees the Tiger's shadow in the halls of her mother's kin, she even senses the Serpent which coils under the land.
The Tiger and the Wolf is a thoroughly enjoyable read, ticking all my must-have boxes. Description is good, especially concerning the natural world which is hostile and implacable, yet also beautiful and live-giving. Characters are varied, well drawn and utterly believable, not least Maniye herself who starts the novel as a small fearful creature, abused and outcast, and gains in strength and determination as the book progresses. There is a depth of history, abounding with stories and legends, and the danger the Serpent priest has foreseen is undoubtedly linked with past horrors which saw the splitting of the people into separate clans.
The novel has a somewhat leisurely pace to start, with a good deal of background and history dropped into the story, but in Tchaikovsky's sure hands it never feels too slow or info-dumpy, and the action scenes are well-handled and exciting -- there are many fights which are cleverly choreographed, with humans Stepping to animals and back again seeking the killing blow with knife and teeth, fists and claws. One minor criticism I would make is that for my taste there are a lot of such fights but I'm well aware that others will relish them, and they're not too repetitive thanks to an everchanging cast of combatants. I was also slightly disappointed by the ending which was well foreshadowed, and in part what I expected, but which still felt perhaps a little too convenient and easy.
Overall, a very good, well written story, and a worthy winner of the Best Novel at the British Fantasy Awards. Highly recommended for all lovers of epic and heroic fantasy.
This is the first novel in the Echoes of the Fall series. The sequel, The Bear and the Serpent came out in 2017 (I went straight out and bought it) and the third book, The Hawk and the Hyena, is due out in October.
The Tiger and the Wolf is available on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.
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