Juushika's Reviews > The Passion

The Passion by Donna Boyd
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May 08, 08

bookshelves: status-borrowed, trope-werewolf
Read in May, 2008

Werewolves, with brilliant intelligence and devastating beauty, live at peace amongst and above normal humans, running a business conglomeration that rules the Western world. But after the violent death of three werewolves leaves the scent of human on the scene, Alexander, the leader of the werewolf pack, must reveal secrets he has long kept hidden, secrets which will redefine human and werewolf relations: he tells his son and heir a love story about werewolves and a human woman. Boyd's werewolves are unique--artisans, philosophers, and businessmen, they do not live on the fringes of society but instead rule over it. However, Boyd's werewolves also stretch hyperbole to the limit, and they are so stunning, so perfect, so aloof that her novel reads like bad fanfiction. The plot and writing style are unremarkable and the characterization is ludicrous, and so this book is mediocre at best. Although it is an interesting deviation from usual werewolf stereotypes, I don't recommend it.

"In the bright light of day [...] these two could not have passed unnoticed. Eyebrows would be raised, sentences would be left unfinished, small backward steps would be taken to clear a path as they walked by. Head would turn, gazes would follow, and for the space of a second, maybe more, thoughts would stutter and be forgotten. Later, someone might remark upon how tall and striking they looked, or how powerful they seemed. That was all.

"In this dark dead hour of the morning no one was about to notice them. Yet the night seemed to hold its breath until they passed (9)."

So begins The Passion, and here first impressions are reliable: so the book continues for the next 400 pages. Were werewolves are usually categorized as dark and dangerous strangers who live around the fringes of society, hidden from humanity and tied to their bestial nature, Boyd's werewolves break from the norm: perhaps still dark and dangerous, they are also beautiful, intelligent, and cultured--not only more cultured than humans, they created what humans recognize as "culture." They also have unconventional breeding practices, and humans cannot become werewolves. They still turn into wolves in a magical transformation they call the Passion, but on the whole this is a different sort of werewolf.

However, in her attempt to make a new sort of werewolf and to characterize these werewolves, Boyd relies on exaggeration. The quote illustrates it, and so it continues through the rest of the book. These werewolves are so beautiful as to strike humans dumb, their wit and intelligence defies description, their characterization stretches hyperbole to its breaking point. Worse, the narrator is often a werewolf, and his aloof pride only exacerbates the point. The werewolves are simply too perfect, so perfect that they seem like the "Gary Stu"s of bad fanfiction: idealized, exaggerated, and wholly unbelievable.

A combination of socio-political drama and love story, the plot has its fair number of interesting twists and logical conclusions, but it's nothing special and the resolutions are sometimes too convenient. The framed narration is abrupt and addresses the reader, which breaks the fourth wall and makes it impossible to suspend disbelief as the book requires. The narrative voice tries for lush and distinctive but manages only repetitive descriptions and constant exaggeration. Yes, the book remains readable, but it certainly isn't good, and the exaggeration can be inadvertently humorous. I heard of this book through a list of recommended werewolf novels, and I am glad to see a new take on werewolf clichés, but I was disappointed by The Passion. It is mediocre at best, and a thorough waste of time. I do not recommend it.
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