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The Wolf Hunt    by Gillian Bradshaw order for
Wolf Hunt
by Gillian Bradshaw
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2001 (2001)
* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

The novel is based fairly closely - to my mind too closely - on a mediaeval lais (lay) by Marie de France entitled Bisclavret (the Breton word for werewolf). The story begins with a character not in the original lais. Marie Penthievre of Chalandrey has been cloistered in a convent while her father is on Crusade with his overlord, Duke Robert of Normandy. Three knights come to the convent to tell her of the death on Crusade of her brother Robert. They claim that they will take her to court, since she is now the heiress of Chalandrey, and ward of the Duke until her father returns from the East.

As it turns out, the knights are Bretons, not Normans, and are abducting Marie to the court of Duke Hoel of Brittany, who believes he should be overlord of Chalandrey, and means to marry Marie to one of his own men to achieve this. When Marie finds out, she cleverly contrives her escape, but is waylaid by three outlaws in the forest. She is about to be raped when rescued by Tiarnan, a Breton lord with whom, naturally, she immediately falls in love. Although sympathetic, he cannot prevent her being taken to the Duke's court at Rennes, and moreover is in love with and already betrothed to the beautiful Eline of Comper. However, Tiarnan promises to ensure that Marie will not be forced into marriage against her will. Thus far the story is entirely Gillian Bradshaw, and is her usual exciting blend of historical fact and fiction.

However, there have already been hints that Tiarnan has a secret life - as a bisclavret. Now happily married to his beautiful Eline, he still frequently disappears for several days to hunt in the woods as a wolf. Eline finally nags the truth out of him, and as a good Catholic girl is horrified. However, her own morals are a little doubtful, since she immediately promises Alain, a former aspirant to her hand, her body and Tiarnan's lands if he will contrive to ensure that Tiarnan remains in the body of a wolf. This Alain succeeds in doing. It is only through Marie's cleverness and persistence that eventually Tiarnan is restored to his human body, and regains his lands.

Unfortunately, the only really sympathetic characters in the story are Marie, and a humble relative of Alain's, Tiher. Tiarnan is just too perfect, apart from being an involuntary werewolf. Bradshaw has succeeded indeed in turning a man into a werewolf and a werewolf into a wimp, and despite her undoubted superlative skill, she can't make me like it.

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