Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

I'm going to start off by saying something absurd: Lonely Werewolf Girl reminds me a lot of The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

Stay with me...

It's a family drama that explores the lives of the ruling family of Scotland's most powerful clan of werewolves. The family patriarch is in declining health and the subsequent nomination of his replacement is the cause of conflict worthy of a family feud and lots and lots of bloodshed.

The MacRinnalch children are all well adjusted and 'normal' on the outside.  As their father, passes leaving the clan in turmoil and instability, we see their true character surface.  Seraphen, the eldest is a murder bent psychopath.  Thrix is not only a werewolf but an extraordinarily powerful sorceress (which for reasons never explained was heavily frowned upon by her family).  Markus, the second son, is a cross-dressing Cassanova, and Kalix--the title character and youngest sibling--is an anorexic, illiterate, suffering multiple anxiety disorders, self mutilating, junkie.  Oh, and their mother isn't shy about stating who her favorite child is and sacrificing her other children to get what she wants.  

The story is about the election of the next Thane; the nominees are Seraphen and Markus.  There is much intrigue and manipulation (read: murder) to get the required amount of votes.

The other primary characters are two human college students, Daniel and the unfortunately named Moonglow, and the Fire Queen of a secondary world Malvaria and her 'most abysmal, never-to-be-adopted-niece' Vex.  There are also 'the twins;' the cousins the MacRinnalch family doesn't talk about: they are wanna be rock stars, but very successful alcoholics.    

Both factions enact plans to garner votes to see their choice elected.  We follow Kalix around London.  She has been banished from home since she is inextricably linked to the Thane's decline.  The reluctant family is brought together by the Thane's death and we see that even the most far reaching plot points come together as the death of their father dominates their lives.  Thrix runs a fashion boutique and wants nothing to do with the family.  Malveria is the most aggressively vapid character I've ever come across.  She is Thrix biggest client.  If it doesn't involve clothes or who you're sleeping with and why she really won't care.

In regards to who characters are sleeping with, it should be said that all of Millar's werewolves are the most beautiful people ever.  Each with a startlingly unique attribute that sets them apart from each other.  They will also sleep with anything under the sun (or moon) with no regard for who that person is connected with past present, human, werewolf, or deity from a different realm of existence.  If you look the part; they'll hit it.  While none can match a werewolf in terms of beauty all of Millar's characters were homogeneous in the super unique from anyone else but undeniably gorgeous presentation.  That got sterile quickly.

The books vying for votes and assertion of male supremacy (with momma's backing of course) with all the wild personalities mentioned is anything but what I was expecting from the title.  There is room to do something more intimate--you could pick any one of Millar's messed up characters and examine their mental state--but the focus is very broad and focused on plot.  It felt a bit like reading a Guy Ritchie movie (one of the good ones) and that's not a bad thing.  However, I was surprised at this choice of direction considering how good Millar is at the intimate moments such as Kalix's anxiety attacks and addiction.

The strongest accomplishment is the how believable so much supernatural craziness seems in contemporary London.  Considering how easily I bought into what Millar presented I was sad to see the strongest unifying element to the all the plot points--Moonglow--be so awfully unconvincing and blatantly convenient.  I couldn't tell if this was a character Millar wanted readers hate or not, but I officially hated everything about her.  She was walking deus ex machina of the highest order; way worse than anything or person in the Harry Potter universe.  All of this would be okay if she didn't stand out as such so clearly.  She was bad on her own, but when put in situations with more strongly drawn characters as Thrix or Malvaria she really stood out in a 'not good' way.      

There's a guild of werewolf hunters that served no purpose.  There is never any human/werewolf conflict and yet the guild's reason for existing is hunting werewolves down.  The reason why was never stated and I found that bothersome and forced to say the least.  They were a militant organization of haters without cause; which is admittedly scary and kinda awesome but considering their self importance, incompetence and general lack of purpose I have to wonder at their inclusion.  

A judicious editor may have trimmed a hundred and fifty pages, but every page is entertaining.  It's also funny as hell.  I'm hoping the rest of what Millar has written is this much fun because I may have found a new go-to comfort writer.

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