Review: The Wolf of Tebron

In the village of Tebron, surrounded by forests and peaceful mountains, Joran works as an apprentice blacksmith because his unusually sharp ability to mindspeak with animals has made forestry, hunting, and fishing too painful an occupation. He is painfully aware of his difference from his brothers, whom he loves but is unlike. Joran is slender, gentle, contemplative, and quietly desperate, wishing above all things to feel true happiness with his beautiful wife Charris, to feel that he belongs.

When Charris betrays Joran, he sends her away in a fit of passionate anger. But then come the dreams, tormenting him night after night: dreams in which he climbs to a sandcastle above the sea where Charris is trapped in ice, and he struggles to free her while sweeping blackness clutches at the back of his neck and the lunatic moon looks on and laughs. And then come the encounters: the great wolf watching him from the fringes of the wood, the crazy old goose woman with her riddles, and finally the most frightening encounter of all — the discovery that Charris, sent home to her relatives, has disappeared into thin air.

Unable to live any longer with himself and without answers, Joran sets off on a journey, joined by the giant wolf Ruyah, that will take him to the ends of the earth — to the Hovel of the Moon, the Palace of the Sun, the Cave of the Wind, and finally the Unimaginable Sea — and to the depths of his own dreams. His is a search for his wife, for the truth, for answers, and for peace. The way is made bearable by Ruyah’s wise, playful, and always caring presence, a presence that means far more than Joran can imagine.

The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin is being hailed as a modern-day fairy tale, which it certainly is at heart, though its characterization is richer than a typical fairy tale’s. Joran’s struggles with himself are intensely human. In an irony that struck me as particularly true to the Christian life, Joran does not want to be a hero and in fact would not be one were it not for Ruyah pushing, leading, and saving him at every step. Every spark of heroism in him rises in response to the heroism of another. At the same time, he is a likable hero, with pain and struggles that are poignant and relatable.

Not a simple allegory, The Wolf of Tebron nonetheless employs allegory and symbol in great measure, and Ruyah’s wise sayings — “It is said among wolves . . .” — come from sources as varied as C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Carl Jung. (Chesterton, I think, would have enjoyed being a wolf.) It’s a book meant to inspire thought. Its story of redemption is thoroughly Christian at heart, though some of the allusions to life as a dream, reality as a matter of the will, and looking inside yourself could be just as easily interpreted through a non-Christian lens. It’s also a thoroughly enjoyable adventure story, with exotic settings, unpredictable turns, a terrifying enemy, and unexpected humour.

Lakin’s work is stylistically beautiful. The exotic locales are vivid, from dark north to burning desert to misty jungle: I found myself looking forward to each leg of Joran’s journey just so I could experience another part of her story world. The Wolf of Tebron is the first in The Gates of Heaven series from Living Ink Books (AMG Publishers). I’m looking forward to The Map Across Time, Book 2 in the series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book free of charge.







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