Silver Wolf, Black Falcon
by: Dennis McKiernan
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
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: * * * * *
* * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* = Slow, difficult to read, could have been
* = Imminently