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Silver Wolf, Black Falcon
by: Dennis McKiernan
Review by Ciara Grey

This week, to correspond with our
Interview with Dennis McKiernan, I am taking a look at his latest release, Silver Wolf, Black Falcon.

I want to take a moment, before I begin, to point out what constitutes a good piece of work. Regardless of the genre, keeping the narrator from showing is an important skill to develop. Keeping the reader deeply immersed in the setting, and emotionally involved with the characters, without dumping loads of information into the narrative is not an easy task to accomplish. However, this novel seems to pull it off easily.

Silver Wolf, Black Falcon is rumored to be the last Mithgarian novel. Even in the Foreword, McKiernan sounds like he isn't too sure about that. This novel is a continuation of other novels about Mithgar. The other novels are strong enough to stand on their own without having to read them all. I think this is because many of the different stories take place in a vast time line.

I have read all the Mithagarian novels. I cut my sf/fantasy reading teeth on Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The stories they wrote have always transported me to Middle-Earth and Narnia, no matter how many times I read them. Mr. McKiernan writes in this style - this novel is also classified as 'high fantasy' - but it also manages to transport the reader into a very well-realized world.

On my first read through of Silver Wolf, Black Falcon I didn't allow myself to wander Mithgar in wild abandon as I usually do. It wasn't easy, but this time around, I paid attention to the mechanics.

Basic plot? Well, the elves and a shapeshifter who can travel on all planes of existence must find a way, with his friends, to defeat the evil Gyphon and his minions.

What I noticed, though, was how stories like this transport me as a reader. There is a certain quality in the way the characters speak throughout the dialogue. The language of the narrator is very similar to the way the characters sound. The effect is that the narrator is hidden right in plain view. Thus the reader isn't distracted by large amounts of narrative, but rather, drawn deeper into the settings and events.

Too many times, I read novels that have a glaring narrative voice that grinds the story to a halt as it explains terms or events or occurrences. It takes the reader out of the story and makes it hard to get back into it when the characters speak and begin to unfold the story again.

Mithgar is a complex place with a very long history. It is also home to such characters as elves, dwarves, men, warrows, shapeshifters and the myriad of evil creatures and servants of Gyphon. (Vulgs, Ghouls, Helsteeds, etc.).

Scenes take place in well described places that compliment or contrast the characters and their situations. e.g. When McKiernan sets a scene for Vulgs to be chasing a victim, he creates a setting that has an environment that emphasizes the evil nature of these beasts. Night, snow, snowstorms, bitter cold air wind howling. Mr. McKiernan keeps the historical facts straight through his characters and their interaction. They know their history very well. Of course he doesn't use just his characters for that use, but for the reader, it keeps things in perspective.

To avoid info-dumping territory he keeps the descriptions of his settings very tight and efficient letting the characters move through the scene and experience the place. Basically he sets up the environment and then lets the characters do the rest.

His well-crafted characters are never out of character. The story flows throws Mithgar, and the events therein, with a good consistent pace which doesn't leave a reader dangling through a slow middle. The prologue is a gripping scene that leaves you screaming, "No! You can't just stop there!". But, being the master craftsman he is, he does and you are forced to dive into the story to find out what happens!

Based on the technical skill, creative mastery, and pure enjoyment factor, I rate this novel:
* * * * *

Rating Scale:
* * * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* * = Slow, difficult to read, could have been improved.
* = Imminently forgettable.



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