Carnival of the Lycanthropes
by Jonathan Janz
From the first line, this book grabs your attention and never lets go. Janz has a good eye for characteristics, recognizing the things most of us really think while we’re presenting something else to the world. The flashback to Mike’s un-charmed life is filled with instances and images that resound truthfully. The guy that’s prepared to stand on top of the world is the one that gets hurts the most when he falls.
Mike, like Glenn and Duane and every other male in the book, is infatuated with Savannah. This is a literary tradition going back to Victor Hugo’s Esmeralda or even Helen of Troy.
I’m very impressed with the writing and the insights. The characters are uniformly believable. And then the first werewolf, Garner, appears.
Garner turning into a big hairy monster is not what’s unbelievable. He speaks in a stilted and pretentious manner, plus his attack is unnecessary and overly public. How does a supernatural creature expect to survive for centuries if he announces to everyone and his cousin that he’s going to attack? His public actions are unbelievable. However, despite my misgivings on that point, the book redeems itself.
After the group is attacked, some escape and some die. But four are bitten and will eventually become werewolves themselves.
Glenn is the first of the principles who experiences transformation. It’s a scene of unremitting gore but also remarkably sensual—we see, hear, smell, and feel what Glenn is going through in that bathroom stall. The reader is made to change right along with Glenn.
Later, Joyce, who has also been bitten by the first werewolf, infected and changing, but she doesn’t change completely like the other three do. And she, the repressed librarian, is the one who most wants to free the beast within.
But my favorite character from the get-go is Barb Callahan, the brains and the balls of the group. With her uncompromising, no-BS attitude and straight-forward determination, she’s more heroic than the younger folks that make up the focus of the book. Her battle with Garner is epic.
Then more werewolves show up. Not wanting to give too much away, I’ll just say they were a nice surprise. Unfortunately, they grandstand just like Garner, blatantly displaying themselves to five hundred people. They start slaughtering for absolutely no reason, despite it being shown that massive damage can kill them. And what if even one person of that five hundred gets away to alert the media and the armed forces?
Janz has a great insight into his characters’ humanity and hidden selves. His writing is very good and his action scenes are exciting and filled with buckets of gore. His werewolves are dumb. Real wolves would not make as many mistakes.
But it’s still a fun and exciting read and would well deserve a full five stars if his lycanthropic characters showed some restraint. If you can set aside that one fault, you’ll find “Wolf Land” a terrific read.