Let me begin by saying that this is my favourite book of the year so far, and I’ve been reading my hero, Stephen King!
I have read books by Adrian Tchaikovsky before – in fact I’ve reviewed one here in the past – so I knew that I would be in for a good read. Despite that, The Tiger and the Wolf still managed to take my breath away.
Enter a world where all people can shapeshift into the animal of their tribe, where life is hard, and the gods are harder.
Maniye is the daughter of Akrit Stone River, chief of the Winter Runners wolf pack and aspirant to High Chief of the wolves. Akrit has little time or interest for Maniye who is an outcast and lonely child, half wolf and half tiger. Her mother was the Queen of the Tigers, old enemies of the Wolf tribes. Maniye is the result of her mother’s rape when she was taken as a prisoner of war.
Maniye must supress her Tiger half in order to pass the testing and become a full member of the Wolf tribe. When she succeeds, she hopes to win her father’s love but instead discovers that all she has ever been to him is a tool. One that he plans to use to bind the lone wolf, Broken Axe, to the pack and to finally conquer the Tiger once and for all.
Horrified, Maniye flees into the wild with only an old snake priest from the south for company.
Meanwhile, Asmander, Champion of Old Crocodile, travels from the south, searching for the legendary Iron Wolves, hoping to enlist them in the civil war about to break out back home, accompanied Venater, a dragon pirate that Asmander bested in combat and took as a slave.
I had the privilege of hearing the author speak on a panel about World Building at Fantasycon 2017 and this book is a fantastic example of that. The world is intricate and detailed with nature playing a huge part – both in the harshness of the northern climes and in the way the people are shaped by their animal souls. The attention to detail is exquisite and anyone wanting to learn about world building should study this book.
The characters are well-written and beautifully rounded; from the frightened Maniye, to the priestly Hesprec, to the dangerous lone wolf, Broken Axe, all are believable and compelling. By turns harsh and kind, despicable and self-sacrificing, they drag you along through the harsh wilderness of the Crown of the World.
My only regret is that other commitments prevent me from moving straight on to the next book in the series. I heartily recommend this for any fan of fantasy.