Many of us know too well that a well-known publisher and well-marketed book do not guarantee a well-written or worthwhile read (thus, in part, the reason for this blog!). Neither does self-publishing always deserve its reputation for sloppy, unpolished and amateurish writing. Unfortunately, there is often a kernel of truth inside stereotypes, and that kernel sprouts in (best-selling self-published fantasy author) David Dalglish’s Night of the Wolves.
In brief, it’s a tale of two paladins of different faith (and magicks) battling to save a forgotten town from the unexpected invasion of wolf-men, hungry for revenge and better hunting. The plot offers few surprises: after an initial attack, and a raid in response, there’s a build-up of forces on both sides, then a final and protracted battle with odds desperately against the humans.
Nor are there many twists in the expected stereotypes of the fantasy roles: the good paladin is noble and fights with shining white shield, the dark paladin with a black burning sword; the wolf-men (and bird-men and orcs) are just as you might think, intelligent but feral and out for blood; the townspeople are impotent and needing saving; and the world is divided into the Wedge for magical creatures and the good lands for humans. Dalglish’s idea of the magical religious paladins is fun, and his series of neglected fortresses protecting humanity against the onslaught of evil promising (though see the Wall in Game of Thrones, et cetera)… but for the most part we’re left untickled by upturned expectations or clever reworkings of expected tropes.
Night of the Wolves is not all bad: the dark paladin does struggle between his faith and his conscience, and the fight scenes are occasionally rousing. In fact, there is plenty of fighting and gore, and for those interested in a battle-packed story, Night of the Wolves is not such a bad option. My lukewarm reaction may be in part to a confusion of genre: though this has a lot of elements of fantasy (middle age technology, knights, magic), the wolf-men have a touches of the horror genre to them, and the amount of battle scenes recall a kung-fu movie more than the plot- or character-driven stories that (IMHO) often make the best fantasy reads.
It should also be noted this is a re-release of an earlier Dalglish work, and his works may have gotten better over time (see authors like Stephen Erikson). He is a wildly prolific author (google his upcoming releases!), and his great sales may be from sheer volume of works available. Either way, the staid plot, unsurprising worldbuilding, and shallow human element of Night of the Wolves mean we can’t give it much of a recommendation, but if you’re looking for a quick and battle-packed (and cheap!) read, you could do worse.