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An Apprentice to Elves: Iskryne    by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette order for
Apprentice to Elves
by Elizabeth Bear
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

An Apprentice to Elves, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, is third in their Iskryne series, following A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men. Though I read the first book, I missed the second, and do recommend reading them in order as these authors have built a fairly complex world.

The first episode introduced readers to Iskryne (Scandinavian in flavor) where men and huge, telepathic trellwolves joined to fight trolls and wyverns, which had almost overwhelmed human settlements. There was tension and misunderstandings between settled folk and the wolfcarls who fought and died alongside their bonded wolves.

Young nobleman Isolfr bonded with budding queen-wolf Viradechtis and joined the wolfheall, earning his father's contempt. And men met the matriarchal, elven svartalfar. In the second episode, these long beleaguered folk and their trellwolf companions faced a new human enemy when the Rheans (who share many attributes with Romans) invaded.

An Apprentice to Elves is mainly the story of Isolfr's daughter Alfgyfa, who was raised amongst wolves in the wolfheall. At age seven, Isolfr sends her as an apprentice to svartalfar mastersmith Tin, for training as a smith, but also to strengthen the ties between wolfcarls and svartalfar. There are many adjustments needed on both sides!

In her early years with the svartalfar, Alfgyfa rescues a young wolf cub. This creates a link between the young woman and wild trellwolves that will be important later. As her apprenticeship term comes to its end, she, Tin and svartalfar journeyman scribe Idocrase (whom she has befriended) travel back to her father's wolfheall, just as it is gearing up for what seems a hopeless battle against the Rhean legions.

There are many more plot threads to follow in this intriguing tale. Perhaps because of missing the second book, I did find the sheer number of characters, different races, and their inter-relationships confusing at times. But I like the world building and the action.

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