Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Devouring Wolf

Parker, Natalie C. The Devouring Wolf
August 2nd 2022 by Razorbill
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Riley Callahan lives with her siblings and moms in rural Kansas. Mom C. was born a werewolf and is currently the pack alpha, and Mom N. became one, so the family spends a lot of time with the werewolf community. Children usually develop their powers between the ages of 9 and 13, but Riley (who is 12) still hasn't. This year, her younger brother Milo will be participating in the Full Moon Rite. Children who aren't called to be with the pack as werewolves spend time at Tenderfoot Camp, and Riley, whose best friend Stacey turned last year, does NOT want to have to go back to camp. Milo is working on his wolf magic, and is having some success with combining two of the three forms required: alchemy and lithomancy. When the rite happens, Milo is called, but Riley, along with four others, is not. The parents don't know what to do, and have the children go to the Clawroot camp inside the boundaries of Tenderfoot Camp in order to keep them safe. Riley's cousin Dhoneille is there, as is Lydia, Aracely, Kenver and Lydia. The five are all scared and worried about not turning, and there's a brief moment of misunderstanding when one of the girls misgenders Kenver, who uses they/them pronouns. The adults are trying to figure out what's going on, but there are bigger problems; two of the older teens have their wolf stolen from them. Riley, who has been hearing mysterious voices calling to her, is sure that the Devouring Wolf has come back, even though the adults tell her that he is just a myth. In diary pages from a girl named Grace, we find out more about the Devouring Wolf and how he came to be. Riley and her new pack defy the adults and start their own investigations, which they intensify after Milo's wolf is also stolen. Will they be able to figure out what is going on in time to save the rest of their community?
Strengths: Riley's predicament of not becoming a werewolf on her desired timetable will speak to many middle grade readers who feel, for whatever reason, that they are developmentally behind their classmates, even if they are not! The werewolf community is well drawn, and I was easily able to believe that there is a small lupine enclave in rural Kansas. There is great LGBTQIA+ representation with Riley's moms, her sister, who is transgender, and Kenver. The journal entries give just enough information to direct the children to find out more, and since we as the readers seem to have a little more information than they do, it's possible to feel a little more prepared about what is going to happen. There's still plenty of suspense and action, though, and the book is well paced, with quieter times researched being interspersed with attacking wolves. Parker also has a series of YA fantasy books, but made a great transition to middle grade concerns and voice. Very well done. 
Weaknesses: The werewolves use of magic, and the combinations thereof, was very interesting, but we didn't see very much of it. Putting objects inside rocks? Creating magical treats? There wasn't a lot of time to use the magic, since there was the immediate concern of the Devouring Wolf, but I rather wanted to know more!
What I really think: Werewolf books were hugely popular about fifteen years ago, when vampire books were also much in demand. LeFever's Werewolf Rising (2006),  and Moore's Red Moon Rising (2011) are my favorite, but I also have Schrieber's Full Moon series,  Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and Barnes' Raised by Wolves. Sadly, none of these have circulated much recently, but maybe the growing interest in vampire books will lead to a larger demand for werewolf tales. 

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