I have a confession to make. I read this book because I saw Peter Smalley’s name on it. The other books of his that I’ve read have been enjoyable, so I grabbed this without even reading the blurb. I saw a Swastika on it, and the Eiffel Tower, so I figured it was set in Paris in WWII, but beyond that I knew nothing.
It’s a story about Cecile, a French werewolf ballerina spy who falls for Klaus, a German officer who’s stationed in Paris after his plane is shot down and he can no longer fly. She’s not happy about being a werewolf, or a spy, or falling in love with the German officer, but it all happens to her anyway.
The pacing of the story is much slower than the stories I normally read. I think I was about 20-25% of the way through the story before the really interesting stuff started to happen. But the slow build worked really well in this story, and felt authentic.
In fact, it almost felt like the book was conforming to my own thoughts and questions as I went through it. An example: at one point I thought, “I’m surprised none of these German officers are being reassigned to other areas, where the war is going badly.” The next time I picked up the book, one of the officers headed out of Paris!
Here’s something else that I loved about the book, and I don’t think you will ever hear me say this about another book – I loved the werewolves. I HATE werewolves most the time, because they’re always the same mindless monsters when the moon comes out, they tear everyone apart, wake up naked the next day, and cry in a forest, their bodies covered in blood. Blah, blah, blah, they’re boring. And when the werewolf aspect was first introduced in this story, I had a flashback to when I was a teenager and went to see the movie An American Werewolf in Paris. I remember exactly nothing about that movie except that I hated it.
But the way werewolves were portrayed in this book was refreshing. While there is that “uncontrolled animal” aspect (especially for the males, it seems), it’s not always there. The wolf can be bargained with and controlled (with extreme effort). It’s almost an aside for the story. The main focus is on the occupation and the relationship between Cecile and Klaus, and the werewolf angle is a bit of flavour.
This story was thoughtfully put together with a real eye for all the important details that make characters and settings feel true. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the authors had gone back and looked through the phases of the moon to get the actual dates of the full moon right, because everything else is so authentic.
Aside from some minor issues that can be overlooked (“and and” or an extra word/missing word here and there), I really only have one thing that bothered me, and that was that the ending wasn’t an ending; it’s just a pause until the next book. When I got to about the 97% mark, I started dreading that was where the book was going to go. It didn’t feel like it was wrapping up at all. For a first-in-series book, I like more closure so I can stop and say, “Do I want to go on with this series?” and not feel pressure either way. Whether that ending is a triumphant victory, or a twist and failure doesn’t matter so much as the fact that it should end, with some extra ideas to make you want to read more. That said, I’m not sure if there was another spot they could have ended it cleanly, so maybe it needed to (not) end this way.
After thinking about the issue for a while, I think I nailed down why the non-ending here bugs me so much. It’s because the book doesn’t say it’s part of a series on the cover.
In this case I enjoyed the story enough that I want to see where it goes next, so I can let the lack of an ending slide. But I could see how it might annoy other readers who aren’t as invested in the tale.
About the Reviewer
Husband, father, and researcher, Ryan Toxopeus spends his free time working on his epic fantasy trilogy, Empire’s Foundation. He started writing the first book, A Noble’s Quest, in 2010 and fell in love with all aspects of storytelling. He focuses on fast paced, character driven plots. His motto: “If I’m bored writing it, others will be bored reading it.”
Learn more about Ryan and his work at https://prcreative.ca/ryan/