Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bonds of Fenris by S.J. Bell

Buy the book: Amazon US ; Amazon UK ; Smashwords

When S.J. Bell contacted me to ask me to help him get the news of his upcoming release out, I was happy to help! Various forms of fantasy tend to be my interest but I have to admit that I don’t tend to read many books that revolve around werewolves. I don’t know what it is about werewolves that doesn’t seem to appeal to me in quite the same way that other forms of the supernatural do. However, I’m always willing to give anything a go!

Title: Bonds of Fenris
Author: S.J. Bell
Series: ??
Publisher: Self-published
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 226 pages

Story: Talia Thornwood's life ended one year ago, when she became a werewolf. She survived the attack, and the horrifying transformation a month later, but the life she has now is barely worth living. She lurks about in a filthy, run-down house, with too many werewolves crammed into too small a space. Every day is a struggle against the stress of human contact, the romantic prodding of her obnoxious packmate Pierce, and the gnawing hunger for flesh in her soul. 

She's all but resigned herself to a dreary existence on the margins of society when she meets Corwin. Corwin is a werewolf like none other. He walks among humans as if it was nothing, and can keep his wolf under control even when the moon is full. Talia's mind is suddenly opened to the possibilities before her, and the realization of how little she really knows about lycanthropy.

Corwin claims that he can teach her how to cope as he does, even how to transcend her affliction. But it will not be easy. It is a hard education that requires her to question everything her pack taught her, and confront exactly what she has become.
And, more amazingly, what she never stopped being.

Thoughts and impressions: Bonds of Fenris is the perfect title for this story. It really is about the bonds placed upon an individual when they have to deal with this vision of lycanthropy. I’m not usually a huge fan of very introspective books that don’t present much of an outside threat, and that is essentially what this book is: each of the characters must face their own inner demons in their own way in order to become a well-adjusted member of their small werewolf community. There is no real outside threat. The black wolf with one black eye is, I suppose, the threat in the long run, or at least a future threat but the only thing posing a threat to their pack here is other members of the pack. If there is a second book that is. The story could be considered complete here, I guess, but the hints about the black-eyed wolf made me feel as though there’s still more to tell.

As I mentioned, I don’t tend to read all that many books about werewolves so this is the first time that I’ve come across the concept of the wolf being a secondary resident in the body’s mind. I really liked how Talia would “talk” to her wolf in her head and her wolf would react. I can’t imagine there being another consciousness in my head with me, but if there were I’d like to think that it’d be something like that!

Ever since being bitten around a year earlier, Talia has struggled with her lycanthropy and what it has meant for her human life. The start of the story shows just how bad things have become through her pack dynamic. All of them are constantly at each other’s throats, no longer able to even hold a normal conversation without at least two of them getting into a fight. It was a bit too angsty for my tastes at this point but I understand why it was important to set this particular scene in order for what comes after to be all the more prominent.

When Talia meets another werewolf who is able to control his shift even under the light of the full moon, when the wolf is at its strongest, she is both fascinated and freaked out. Despite the potential that he’ll turn out to be a threat rather than a friend, Talia still approaches him, hoping that he’ll reveal his secret. He’s willing to share, but she has to work to be ready to accept the truths and a lot of the book focuses on this inner voyage. The author presents a lot of soul-searching questions and his ways of unearthing answers to them were captivating to say the least. I always wanted to know how each new question would be addressed and what the ‘correct’ answer would happen to be. Of course, when it came down to it, I usually had different ideas to the characters, but that’s to be expected.

The characters were all very different individuals, valuing different traits. They were all vividly drawn and made for a cast that caught my interest and kept it. I liked them all for different reasons. Bo was my favourite. I don’t know why, I just really liked his particular outlook on life. With each one fighting their own personal demons, sometimes they’d get a bit caught up in themselves. The endless brittleness between the two female characters in particular got old fast. I would have liked to have seen more of them interacting without the underlying bitchiness, ‘scuse my French.

The only real problem is that this book is a first person narrative with the perspective of passing time, and so Talia keeps giving us little insights into what is still to come. Not a problem in itself, but there’s a passage fairly early on in the book that lets the reader know about the future of the pack. This coupled with the fact that the threat is internal rather than external means that reading is more a way of finding out how the pack get through their issues rather than whether they will vanquish their inner demons or be vanquished by them. If there hadn’t been that little comment early on in the story it would have kept the tension much thicker towards the end of the story as it reaches its climax. Certainly, there are still devastating secrets to be unearthed, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Style: Sometimes it did get a bit bogged down in itself when it got caught up in all the philosophical questions that were being presented. A little bit of perseverance led to great rewards, though!

Final verdict: Though far from what I’d normally read, this book worked very well for me! 4 stars

Extra notes: Bad language and some more adult situations are present.

Check back tomorrow for an interview with the author!


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one as well, I was very surprised because I expected something like Nightshade. great review!

  2. @Melliane I haven't read Nightshade and I doubt I ever will, but this book was far from what I was expecting when I started it. I'm glad that you liked it too!


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