Jenre's Reviews > Queer Wolf

Queer Wolf by James E.M. Rasmussen
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Aug 12, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: m-m

This anthology is a collection of GBLT werewolf stories (three are f/f and the rest m/m). It caught my eye at first because I thought it sounded a bit different and, as you may know, I'm trying to expand my m/m reading to include some paranormal stories, so this seemed like a good intro to the genre. I fully admit that 'shifter' stories have never been something I've enjoyed particularly in the past, but I was willing to put aside my hang ups and give this one a go. I was also attracted by the fact that some of the authors who have contributed to this anthology, such as Charlie Cochrane and Ginn Hale, are those whose writing I've read and enjoyed before.

Usually when I review an anthology I go through and say a little bit about each story. However, there are 17 stories in this anthology, which in one sense is great because you get a lot of stories for your money, but on the other hand that's too many to write about individually, otherwise this review would be huge, I'd be exhausted and you'll all be bored with my endless prose. So instead I'll do a short summary, highlight a few stories which were particularly interesting for whatever reason and leave the rest for you to judge; if you decide to buy, that is!

As with all anthologies this one is a mixed bag. Out of the 17 stories I gave 3 Excellents, 6 Very Goods, 7 Goods and 1 Poor. I have to say that the anthology begins well. In fact the first few stories were, on the whole, the ones that I enjoyed the most out of the anthology. The stories which gained 'Excellent' grades for me were Moon Sing by Laramie Dean - whose sympathetic teenage narrator was full of heartbreaking angst and false bravado - and...

... Shy Hunter by Ginn Hale
The main character in this story, David, is a werewolf who was ‘turned’ by another werewolf, Calvin, who preys on young men. When we meet David at the beginning of the story he is still coming to terms with his new status. He does this by preferring to stay mostly in his wolf or ‘dog’ form and hide from the world. David is a genuinely nice guy. He helps out the local mountain rescue and the police by seeking out lost hikers and finding some of the poor young men who have been murdered by Calvin the psycho-werewolf; he has a lovely self-depreciating sense of humour; and he has a fear of becoming like the monster who turned him. It’s all rather endearing. After being nagged by his friend, David goes to a local gay club and meets Edgar. They hit it off straight away and start to see each other. Their relationship is slightly awkward at first, but with an underlying tenderness that was quite lovely. The undercurrent of tension throughout the book as both David and Edgar try to keep their secrets, coupled with the looming possibility that Calvin might be trying to hurt Edgar, made for fast pacing and an exciting finale. It didn’t detract from the story one bit that I had already guessed both of Edgar’s big secrets by the end as I was enjoying the ride too much to care.

However, my absolute favourite story was...

...The Stray by Anel Viz
The best thing about this sly, humourous story was the way that, even though it was written in the first person, the joke is on the narrator. The narrator is clueless John, who after several months of nagging is finally pleased when his lover, Farkas, agrees to move in with him. Around the same time a stray dog keeps appearing once a month. The strange thing is that Farkas and the dog are never around at the same time, a fact which John ponders on a number of occasions – what a hoot! I kept waiting for the penny to drop, especially after another plot development which I won’t give away. I spent the whole time reading the story feeling vastly amused and slightly exasperated at John’s inability to see what was going on under his nose. Great stuff.

Another story which I enjoyed immensely, but gained a grade of 'Very Good' was...

...Wolf Lover by Michael Itig
This slightly bizarre, blackly humourous story about a man with a fetish for werewolf sex had its tongue firmly in its cheek. The story is told in the first person by Nigel, who actively seeks out werewolves for sex and through a special light ‘turns’ them at point of orgasm – yes, be warned, here be shifted sex (just a bit and it’s not too graphic so don’t be put off by this). After one such liaison, Nigel is given a card with the name of a club on it. When he goes to the club he discovers that it caters for those like himself and their werewolf lovers. It is here that he meets Luke and they start seeing each other. The character of Nigel is darkly funny. He is completely unashamed of his sexual urges and I got swept along by his machinations to get as much wolf sex as possible. However, in some ways this is a cautionary tale, with a couple of plot twists – one of which I saw coming and the other I didn’t. Let’s just say that although Nigel gets his comeuppance in the end, it’s not a bad ending! Very enjoyable and appealing to my warped sense of humour.

Do you see a pattern here? Yep, if it appeals to my extremely odd sense of humour, then it gets a big thumbs up from me.

Honourable mentions also need to go to Wolves of the West by Charlie Cochrane - another story with a sly streak of humour running through it; Wolf Strap by Naomi Clark - whose author had deft touch with description; and Flip City by Lucas Johnson - a dark horror about a city under Demon attack and the uneasy relationship between a newly turned werewolf and the werewolf who bit him.

The stories which didn't work as well for me were those which left many unanswered questions, either about the relationships between the characters or the situation they were in. For example in Family Matters by Moondancer Drake, the werewolves are under attack from rogue Fae, but we are never told why they have such animosity towards humans and werewolves. Also in War of the Wolves by Charles Long the wolf pack is attacked by other werewolves, but we are never told why or what the other pack hope to gain. However, even though both these stories left questions in my mind, they weren't badly written.

The only story that I didn't like was A Wolf's Moon by Quinn Smythwood. This was because the author had written the story in a dream-like style which I found almost impenetrable in places. I managed to just about follow what was happening, but the thick prose and surreal imagery made it difficult for me to connect with any of the characters. This would probably be of interest to those readers who like authors who experiment with style. Sadly, I'm not one of them, so this story was a bit of a dud for me.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this anthology. There were a good range of stories from authors who mostly did interesting things with what many people are calling a tired genre. It was refreshing to see f/f stories amongst the m/m, and even more refreshing was the consistently high quality of the writing from all the authors - even if some worked better than others. I may have had some quibbles with plotting, but the writing itself was excellent. I'm going to give this anthology a grade of 'Very Good' as I will definitely be reading many of these stories again when I'm in the mood for something with a bit of bite.
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