Showing posts with label YA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label YA. Show all posts

Thursday, 31 October 2013

OUT NOW: The Gothic World (Routledge, 2013)

Edited by Glennis Byron and Dale Townshend

The Gothic World offers an overview of this popular field whilst also extending critical debate in exciting new directions such as film, politics, fashion, architecture, fine art and cyberculture. Structured around the principles of time, space and practice, and including a detailed general introduction, the five sections look at:

• Gothic Histories
• Gothic Spaces
• Gothic Readers and Writers
• Gothic Spectacle
• Contemporary Impulses

The Gothic World seeks to account for the Gothic as a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional force, as a style, an aesthetic experience and a mode of cultural expression that traverses genres, forms, media, disciplines and national boundaries and creates, indeed, its own ‘World’.


• Introduction, Dale Townshend

Part I: Gothic Histories
• The Politics of Gothic Historiography, 1660-1800, Sean Silver
• Gothic Antiquarianism in the Eighteenth Century, Rosemary Sweet
• Gothic and the New American Republic, 1770-1800, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock
• Gothic and the Celtic Fringe, 1750-1830, James Kelly
• British Gothic Nationhood, 1760-1830, Justin D. Edwards
• Gothic Colonies, 1850-1920, Roger Luckhurst
• History, Trauma and the Gothic in Contemporary Western Fictions, Jerrold E. Hogle

Part II: Gothic Spaces

• Gothic and the Architectural Imagination, 1740-1840, Nicole Reynolds
• Gothic Geography, 1760-1830, Benjamin A. Brabon
• Gothic and the Victorian Home, Tamara Wagner
• American Gothic and the Environment, 1800-present, Matthew Wynn Sivils
• Gothic Cities and Suburbs, 1880-present, Sara Wilson
• Gothic in Cyberspace, Bryan Alexander

Part III: Gothic Readers and Writers
• Gothic and the Publishing World, 1780-1820, Anthony Mandal
• Gothic and the History of Reading, 1764-1830, Katie Halsey
• Gothic Adaptation, 1764-1830, Diane Long Hoeveler
• Gothic Romance, 1760-1830, Sue Chaplin
• Gothic Poetry, 1700-1900, David Punter
• Gothic Translation: France, 1760-1830, Angela Wright
• Gothic Translation: Germany, 1760-1830, Barry Murnane
• Gothic and the Child Reader, 1764-1850, M.O. Grenby
• Gothic and the Child Reader, 1850-present, Chloe Buckley
• Gothic Sensations, 1850-1880, Franz J. Potter
• Young Adults and the Contemporary Gothic, Hannah Priest
• The Earliest Parodies of Gothic Literature, Douglass H. Thomson
• Figuring the Author in Modern Gothic Writing, Neil McRobert
• Gothic and the Question of Theory, 1900-present, Scott Brewster

Part IV: Gothic Spectacle
• Gothic and Eighteenth-Century Visual Art, Martin Myrone
• Gothic Visuality in the Nineteenth Century, Elizabeth McCarthy
• Gothic Theater, 1765-present, Diego Saglia
• Ghosts, Monsters and Spirits, 1840-1900, Alexandra Warwick
• Gothic Horror Film from The Haunted Castle (1896) to Psycho (1960), James Morgart
• Gothic Horror Film, 1960-present, Xavier Aldana Reyes
• Southeast Asian Gothic Cinema, Colette Balmain
• Defining a Gothic Aesthetic in Modern and Contemporary Visual Art, Gilda Williams

Part V: Contemporary Impulses
• Sonic Gothic, Isabella van Elferen
• Gothic Lifestyle, Catherine Spooner
• Gothic and Survival Horror Videogames, Ewan Kirkland
• Rewriting the Canon in Contemporary Gothic, Joanne Watkiss
• Gothic Tourism, Emma McEvoy
• Gothic on the Small Screen, Brigid Cherry
• Post-Millennial Monsters: Monstrosity-No-More, Fred Botting

For more information, please visit the publishers' website.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

OUT NOW: The Modern Vampire and Human Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Edited by Deborah Mutch

Blurb: Why are we surrounded by vampires in the twenty-first century? From the global phenomena of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse, through films such as Underworld and Blade, television series such as the The Vampire Diaries and Being Human, to video games like Bloodrayne and Legacy of Kain, the reader, viewer and player has never had so many vampires to choose from. This collection considers the importance of the current flurry of vampires for our sense of human identity. Vampires have long been read as bodies through which our sense of ourselves has been reflected back to us. These essays offer readings of the modern vampire as a complex consideration of our modern human selves. Now that we no longer see the vampire as essentially evil, what does that say about us.

Editor: Deborah Mutch is a senior lecturer at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. She has recently become interested in the modern Gothic and has published an article on the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series in Critical Survey. She has also published widely on fin-de-siecle British socialist fiction.


1. Blood, Bodies, Books: Kim Newman and the Vampire as Cultural Text by Keith Scott
2. Buffy vs. Bella: Gender, Relationships and the Modern Vampire by Bethan Jones
3. 'Hell! Was I Becoming a Vampyre Slut?': Sex, Sexuality and Morality in Young Adult Vampire Fiction by Hannah Priest
4. Consuming Clothes and Dressing Desire in the Twilight Series by Sarah Heaton
5. Whiteness, Vampires and Humanity in Contemporary Film and Television by Ewan Kirkland
6. The Vampiric Diaspora: The Complications of Victimhood and Post-memory as Configured in the Jewish Migrant Vampire by Simon Bacon
7. Vampires and Gentiles: Jews, Mormons and Embracing the Other by Clare Reed
8. Transcending the Massacre: Vampire Mormons in the Twilight Series by Yael Maurer
9. The Gothic Louisiana of Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice by Victoria Amador
10. Matt Haig's The Radleys: Vampires for the Neoliberal Age by Deborah Mutch

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Review: Melissa Marr, Darkest Mercy (HarperCollins, 2011)

This review begins rather anecdotally. A few years ago, when I was in the first year of my PhD and had just turned my attention to fairies in medieval romance, I bought a book on a whim. The book, which was shelved next to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, was called Wicked Lovely and the blurb on the back read:
“Rule #3 Don’t stare at invisible faeries.
Rule #2 Don’t speak to invisible faeries.
Rule #1 Don’t ever attract their attention.”

I was (reasonably) intrigued by this, and by the funky cover, so I decided to buy it.

I didn’t expect too much of the book. I thought that modern fairies would probably be saccharine, Disney-inspired creations. I had no experience of reading urban fantasy, and assumed it would be a sort of cross between sci-fi and high fantasy. Hard as this might be to believe, I was also dubious about reading a book aimed at young adults. I hadn’t read a book aimed at teenagers since I was 12, and I’m pretty sure that was Sweet Valley High. Still, I decided to give it a go.

I took Wicked Lovely to a festival, so I had something to read in my tent when the weather was bad. It might sound corny, but I really wasn’t prepared for the impact that book would have on both my reading habits and my career. Suffice to say, I didn’t leave my tent much at the festival, and I’ve been hooked on YA urban fantasy since. By the time I came home, I was determined to read (and write) much more YA fantasy.

Since then, I’ve completed a manuscript of my own YA novel, and begun work on the sequel. I’ve also written several articles on YA, including one piece on Marr’s fiction, and written numerous blog posts and reviews of new YA releases. During this time, Marr has published four more titles in the Wicked Lovely series, as well as number of graphic novels and audiobooks in the series. Where Wicked Lovely began by telling the story of Aislinn, a high school stalked by the Summer King Keenan, the subsequent books in the series (Ink Exchange, Fragile Eternity, Radiant Shadows and Darkest Mercy) introduced a whole world of characters and fairy courts: Niall, Irial and the Hounds of the Dark Court; Sorcha, the embodiment of Order, and her twin sister Bananach; Aislinn’s once-mortal boyfriend Seth and close friend Leslie; and Donia, the Winter Girl of Wicked Lovely transformed into the powerful regent of Winter.

Marr’s fairies – like those of Holly Black – are very much in the medieval (rather than the Victorian) mode. They are callous, haughty, cruel – but also seductive, attractive and joyful. They are bound by an inability to lie, loyalty to their courts and centuries-old vows and oaths. Marr consistently follows Celtic (mostly Scottish and Irish) traditions, bringing to life some of the darker beings of folklore (the Ly Ergs and the Gancanagh, for instance), alongside original creations (like the Dark Court’s use of tattoo-spells to bind them to mortals). In addition to this, Marr’s characterization is well-observed and compelling – it is easy to have sympathy for all her characters, despite their marked differences and occasional ‘wrong’ behaviour.

And now, with the release of Darkest Mercy, the series comes to a close – with a climactic finale that brings the stories of all the characters to a (mostly) satisfying endpoint.

Darkest Mercy begins immediately after the events of Radiant Shadows. Bananach has attacked the Dark Court, leaving Irial injured and the daughter of the Hound Gabriel dead. A new court, the Shadow Court, has been formed, and the veil to Faeries has been sealed. The various regents – Keenan, Aislinn, Donia and Niall – are all suffering various turmoils, and no-one truly knows how to deal with War (as Bananach is known).

As a series finale, Darkest Mercy ticks a lot of boxes. It resolves a number of the plot-threads that have run through the series. For example, since Book One, the love triangle between Aislinn, Seth and Keenan has been a constant problem, only made worse when Keenan began a relationship with Donia. This storyline, I would say out of all of them, comes to a satisfying conclusion in the final book. (The epilogue of Darkest Mercy is a very clever piece of writing, and will definitely make fans of the series smile.)

The book also offers some development of what has gone before, particularly in its further exploration of the relationship between Irial and Niall. Antagonists in Ink Exchange, these two fairies have been intertwined since the second book. Darkest Mercy offers us more of their history, which is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. The final hint of the resolution of the Niall-Irial-Leslie triangle (which has always been so much more complicated and, in my opinion, more moving than the Aislinn-Keenan-Seth storyline) is a nice, and rather brave, touch to this YA fantasy.

The fifth book still holds some new introductions though. After the events of Radiant Shadows, Keenan seeks support from fairies not attached to any of the courts. These fairies, though only making a brief appearance in the novel, are fantastic creations, and reminded me of why I am such a fan of Marr’s writing. And it was nice to finally meet Far Dorcha – the Dark Man who has previously only been spoken of.

Reflecting on the series as a whole, it should be noted that Darkest Mercy is the endpoint of a gradual shift in the focus of the series. While Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange were very much urban fantasy, telling the story of ‘ordinary’ girls with one foot in the ‘real’ world and one (reluctant) foot in the supernatural, the subsequent books have focused more and more on Faerie. By Darkest Mercy, there is almost no mention of the ‘real’ world. Aislinn, the mortal girl with ‘Sight’ is now a powerful fairy embodiment of Summer; Leslie, who ended her book leaving her supernatural lovers and going to college, is now brought back into the otherworld. The only mortals who are mentioned in this final book are hapless bystanders, shielded from fairy conflict by Donia’s winter fey.

This is not necessarily a criticism, as Marr’s fairy world always seems to be grounded by the ‘modern’ and ‘human’ behaviours, mannerisms and language of its inhabitants. However, this shift made me realize how far the story had come, and how much the central characters have given up during their stories.

As a writer of YA fiction, Marr has always impressed me with her focus on the ‘adult’, rather than the ‘young’. While her books are more than suitable (and recommended) for teenage readers, they do not feel constrained or condescending. Marr tackles ‘difficult’ questions of death, addiction (to fairy love, if not to drugs or alcohol) and sexuality with a light touch. Her treatment of sex and sexual relationships is particularly striking, as her characters inhabit a range of identities (heterosexual, bisexual, polygamous and androgynous) without any heavy-handed moralizing or imposition of heteronormativity. I’d suggest that the only other YA writer who is comparable to Marr in this respect is Holly Black.

I am sad to say goodbye to the Wicked Lovely series. Darkest Mercy was a more than suitable farewell to characters I have come to love, and I suppose the good thing about books is that I can always read them again! My only criticism would be that not all the characters got to be a part of the finale. Some (Sorcha, Devlin, Ani and Rae) were notable by their absence. Still, this fills me with a little bit of optimism… maybe, one day, Marr will revisit those characters, and we’ll find out that the story isn’t quite finished.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Review: Bree Despain, The Lost Saint (Egmont, 2011)

The Lost Saint is the sequel to Bree Despain’s YA werewolf fantasy The Dark Divine. The first book told the story of Grace Divine, the daughter of a pastor, and her relationship with Daniel Kalbi, a boy she has known since childhood. Daniel was near enough a member of Grace’s family, and was best friends with her and her brother Jude, but disappeared without warning some time before the novel begins. The Dark Divine tells the story of what happens when Daniel returns, and how Grace struggles to come to terms with the terrible secret that led him to run away.

Daniel is an Urbat, infected with a curse that causes a wolf demon to cohabit his body. If he gives in to his wolf, and commits a predatory act against a human, he will become a werewolf and will be lost forever. In the first book, seventeen-year-old Grace must deal with Daniel’s awful secret, as well as with her growing romantic feelings for him. In the end, she discovers that she is the one who holds the key to saving Daniel’s soul, and must make a horrible choice that leaves Daniel fighting for his life and Jude condemned to life as a werewolf.

The Lost Saint picks up the story ten months after the final events of The Dark Divine. Daniel has been ‘cured’ by Grace’s sacrifice; Jude – now a werewolf – has run away, and the Divine family is falling to pieces as a result. Perhaps more importantly, Grace has become infected with the Urbat curse and is beginning to learn what this might mean.

When Daniel appears to abandon Grace, insisting that she stops training to be a ‘Hound of Heaven’ (i.e. an Urbat warrior who learns to control their wolf and fight for the good of humanity), Grace becomes confused. The arrival of Gabriel Saint Moon, the legendary Urbat whose letters Grace read in The Dark Divine, does little to alleviate the confusion. Add to this the intrusion of a handsome stranger into Grace’s life, cryptic messages from Jude to Grace and best friend April, and the fact that the “Markham Street Monster” was never actually caught at the end of the first book, and Grace’s new life promises to be less than easy.

In many ways, The Dark Divine and The Lost Saint are typical YA urban fantasy/dark romance. True to genre, we have a teen heroine who meets a brooding young man, is both angered by him and drawn to him, and discovers he is a supernatural being. Like many YA books of this genre, Grace must come to terms with her first love, as well as with the fact that the world is not as straightforward as she previously thought. Sure enough, like many teen heroines, we see Grace navigate family problems, friendships and schoolwork, alongside her new relationship with the obligatory ‘supernatural hottie’.

However, Despain’s books also buck many of the trends of the genre, and I feel that it is in their resistance to certain stereotypical elements of dark romance that they are most interesting.

The first major difference lies with Despain’s werewolves. Daniel does not want to be a werewolf. And we’re not talking some Cullen-esque angst here: he really does not want to be a werewolf. In this, though, he is wise. In the world of Despain’s novels, to be a werewolf is not a good thing. It is possible, with care, focus and the help of a moonstone, to utilize the Urbat powers to help save human lives from other demons, but once an Urbat gives in to the anger and rage of the wolf inside them, they become something truly monstrous.

This is an interesting deviation from the more usual portrayal of werewolves in YA fiction. In other books – and I’m thinking particularly of Maggie Stiefvater and Andrea Cremer’s YA excellent YA werewolf fiction here – to be a werewolf is to embrace a sort of primal, raw power and a connection with other natural phenomena and living beings. While Despain’s werewolves share certain characteristics with those of Stiefvater and Cremer (like accelerated healing, heightened senses and increased physical strength), they are most definitely not ‘liberated’ by the transformation.

This results in Despain's stories being narratives of control (with control posited as a good thing). The Urbat is made up of two beings – human and wolf – and an internal battle rages for control. In places, this becomes almost a Jekyll and Hyde-type inner conflict, and the consequences for letting the Hyde-wolf take over are presented as wholly negative.

I’m sure there are werewolf fans who will be shocked or annoyed by this presentation. In recent years, there has been an investment in the ‘good’ werewolf that (I would suggest) even outstrips the investment in the ‘good’ vampire. But, as with vampires, there is no right or wrong way of presenting werewolves. I like the idea of bad, irredeemable werewolves, as much as I like the idea of sympathetic ones. Despain’s creatures are complex, and all the more interesting for swimming against the tide of YA fantasy.

What this ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ set up does is make Grace’s story one about learning to understand the competing forces that operate inside you, and about how to determine and exercise control. While this might seem rather punitive, The Lost Saint suggests that it should be seen as empowering. Grace contemplates this throughout the book:

“It had felt wonderful then… like nothing I’d known before. But this was so much more than that. Not merely energy transferred from someone else. This came from inside of me. This was my power. And no one could take it away from me.” (p. 128)
Like most YA heroines, Grace has to learn how to use this newfound power in order to make some very difficult decisions. However, once again, Despain offers something different. Though she wants to, Grace does not actually learn how to ‘kick ass’ – quite the opposite in fact. As at the end of The Dark Divine, the final choice that Grace makes in The Lost Saint is really quite astounding, and I found myself holding my breath as I read on to see if she really could go through with it.

It should be apparent from this review, for those not yet familiar with Despain’s novels, that these stories take place very much within a Christian framework. Grace Divine, as her name suggests, is Christian, and the Urbat curse is a threat to the soul of the ‘infected’ rather than a danger to the body (unlike in Maggie Stiefvater’s fiction, in which the werewolf ‘infection’ dramatically shortens lifespan but does not ‘curse’ the wolf eternally). Grace’s father is a pastor, but it is made absolutely clear that the heroine is not simply following what she has been told – she is a believer herself.

I am not a Christian, and I, like many readers, have some reservations about the ways in which religious teachings are used in some YA fiction (*cough*Twilight*cough*). However, I found the way in which Christianity was handled in The Lost Saint to be both interesting and thought-provoking.

As I say, Grace herself is a believer. The first person narrative allows for us to see her occasional internal debate around her belief in God. Rather than presenting us with a heroine attempting to live up to a set of expectations imposed on her by patriarchal figures, Despain gives us a young woman who looks at the world from a particular perspective and thinks carefully about the choices she makes. This is especially evident in Grace’s decision not to have pre-marital sex. The book never actually tells us whether Daniel wants to or not (though Grace is aware that he isn’t a virgin). Grace’s own sexual desire is mentioned, but she places this (quite frankly) within her own system of beliefs. Unlike other heroines who feel the burden of societal expectations placed on them from outside, Grace decides not to have sex with Daniel because she doesn’t believe it is right. Whether or not you share Grace’s beliefs, she comes across as a thoughtful young woman who makes up her own mind. Moreover, her Christianity is just one aspect of her characterization, and religious elements do not overpower the narrative - as much time is given to describing Grace suiting up for her first martial arts lesson as to her religious belief that sex before marriage is wrong.

Admittedly, the strength of Grace's convictions meant that I occasionally found her a tiny bit prissy. She is quite adamant that drinking alcohol is wrong, and, at one point, is shocked that her best friend April spells out the word “B-I-T-C-H”. I wonder if my annoyance at this says more about my own alcohol-fuelled and profanity-laden late-teens (and, fuck it, adulthood too) than it does about Despain’s character? I guess adults who read YA often identify with the characters as the teens they wished they had been. The examples given here were the points at which I found it hardest to identify with Grace.

Aside from this, the only other point in the book where I felt uneasy about the portrayal of Grace’s character was when, as she begins to succumb to the ‘wolf’, she becomes enflamed with animal lust for Daniel and leaps on him. Grace appears, at this point, to be displaying the kind of raw sexual energy that we find associated with female werewolves in much contemporary fiction. And yet this is also a scene in which a young woman discovers the pleasures of unmoderated sexual behaviour for the first time. It was very reminiscent of a scene in Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate, in which the heroine (Vivien) reveals her ‘wolf’ to her boyfriend for the first time (in bed). In The Lost Saint, as in Clause’s novel, the young woman is left feeling nothing but shame and disgust at her own animal lust. But while Vivien is able to realize that this shame is actually a reflection of how others see her femininity and sexuality, Grace is left with nothing but the conviction that it was a sign of her becoming a “monster”. I hope that, as Grace matures and her story continues in the next book in the series, she is able to better explore this aspect of her identity.

Despite this criticism, I highly recommend The Lost Saint (though it’s best to read The Dark Divine first). The storyline is compelling, and the central characters likable and sympathetic. Though I have categorized it as ‘dark romance’, the book is also a mystery, with well-sustained tension and suspense. And the ending is so heart-breaking (and so unexpected), it made me quite anxious to read the third book in the series (The Savage Grace)… we really can’t be left hanging like that for too long (though I believe I will have to wait until March 2012)!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Review: Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Raised by Wolves (Quercus, 2010)

Raised by Wolves, published by Quercus in 2010, is a YA urban fantasy novel, which tells the story of Bronwyn (otherwise known as Bryn), a girl raised by a werewolf pack. When she was four years old, a lone "Rabid" werewolf - the "Big, Bad Wolf" - attacked and killed Bryn's family. She only escaped by hiding in a cupboard until the Stone River Pack arrive to kill the lone wolf and save the girl's life. Bryn is then taken into the pack by powerful alpha Callum, who "Marks" her and raises her. When human woman Ali arrives - searching for her sister who has run off with a werewolf - she is given Bryn as a surrogate daughter, despite being only a few years older. This semi-stable family set-up continues until Bryn is seventeen, when the arrival of newly-converted "Were" Chase causes Bryn to question everything she thinks she knows about the pack and her place within it.

Barnes' werewolves are of a recognizable type: presented as a sort of cohabitation of human and wolf within one 'shifting' bodyt; 'born' not 'made' (on the whole); subject to the strict regulation of a hierarchical pack structure; and telepathic via a "Pack bond", a shared consciousness that links all members of a particular pack. The societal organization of the pack is utterly patriarchal, reliant on obedience to the alpha male. Bryn is doubly subject to this patriarchy; as a woman, but also a human, she has ostensibly little power to rebel against the rigorous and controlling influence of alpha Callum. The novel begins with Callum chastizing Bryn for three transgressions: she has 'borrowed' a motorbike from a classmate [What is it with YA heroines and secret motorbikes??]; her Algebra marks are low; she hasn't fully complied with her curfew. These circumstances may be reasonably familiar to readers of YA fiction. However, on eof the strengths of Raised by Wolves is that Barnes extends this marginalized, powerless situation of the heroine to a wider presentation of women within the werewolf world.

It is made clear throughout the book that there are very few female werewolves. This is presented as a fluke of werewolf biology: "Something about the chemistry involved in werewolf conception made it impossible for girl embryos to survive the first trimester, unless they were half of a set of twins and had a brother to mask their presence in the womb." This 'scientific fact' has a series of deep repercussions for the female characters in the novel. It makes female werewolves very rare: Bryn's foster-sister Kaitlin and close friend Lake are unusual, and thus highly prized members of the pack. As werewolves are 'born' and not 'made', the only way to breed 'purebred' werewolves is for these females to mate with male members of the pack. Their relative scarcity means that they are the focus of an undercurrent of sexual violence and coercion. In the later chapters of the novel, Bryn becomes aware of this when Lake - a rebellious tomboy of breeding age - hides in the mountains when a group of alphas visit her home. As Lake's father explains: "Some Weres, especially the dominant ones, get real funny around females, and Lake's not a kid anymore." Not only is the fifteen-year-old Lake now at risk of the "real funny" behaviour of dominant males, she may also be subject to "bartering" by her own alpha. Bryn comes to a realization that her friend - and, evenutally, her younger sister - will be seen as "commodities" by Callum.

One of the ways alphas exert power over each other is through the size of their pack. The more members to a pack, the more power the alpha has. As there is no way - apparently - of converting humans into werewolves, breeding is an important concern for the pack. The rareness of female werewolves results in most werewolves taking human wives. Barnes is fairly stark in her portrayal of these women - they are little more than breeding machines, and maternal mortality rates are ridiculously high. At one point, the narrator Bryn comments on mass, unmarked graves of female women who have died giving birth to werewolf children. The cumulative effect of this focus on reproduction, mating and mortality is to create a world in which to be female is to be inferior, fragile and vulnerable to patriarchal violence and control. Barnes sustains this throughout her novel, adding to the tension and precariousness of Bryn's situation.

Nevertheless, Bryn is not the sort of heroine who will simply compel with such monolithic societal controls. As Lake's father comments, she is "scrappy". The characterization of Bryn, and her determination to rebel against and subvert the world in which she lives, is one of the most compelling aspects of the novel. Bryn is adept at finding loopholes in pack rule, and discovers a number of skills and attributes that allow her to fight back against the injustices she has faced. (And I will say no more on these, as they are integral to the development of the plot.) Moreover, Bryn configures an alternative society, at odds with the traditional pack, made up of the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the powerless. This social group includes Chase (the werewolf convert who 'shouldn't' exist), Lake and Bryn's close friend Devon - "the world's only metrosexual werewolf". This group - also incorporating Bryn's strong and principled foster-mother Ali and adorable wolf-cub Kaitlin - is likable and sympathetic. The reader sides with them easily against the rigid and brutal pack patriarchy.

Although, as I have said, Barnes' werewolves are of a reasonably familiar type, the author plays around with the usual formula. For example, the "Pack bond" shared by the werewolves can also be enjoyed by humans who have been "Marked". Bryn and Ali have the opportunity to share in this bond, but choose to close off their minds to it. This leads to some consideration by Bryn about what exactly separates humans from "Weres". Though she realizes that she is not actually a werewolf, Bryn doesn't feel or act fully human either. Snarling in anger and revelling in the unrestrained physical freedom of "running with the Pack", Bryn seems to be part-werewolf, despite the impossibility of this. This all raises an interesting question: is it nature or nurture that makes a werewolf?

Raised by Wolves is an enjoyable and gripping YA fantasy. Believable characters and a well-handled and suspenseful plot make for a great read. While the basic premise of the book (and its werewolf world) may seem like well-trodden territory, Barnes' handling of these ideas is original and fresh. The writing bears favourable comparison with other bestselling examples of YA fantasy - and, indeed, is an instance of the genre at its best. Definitely recommended.