The Wolf's Hour
by Robert McCammon
Cover Artist: Vincent Chong
Review by Benjamin Wald
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596063150
Date: 30 November 2010 List Price $75.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Ever wondered what World War two would look like through the eyes of a Russian werewolf working for the British secret service? Me neither, but Robert McCammon apparently has, and The Wolf's Hour is the result. It has action, intrigue, plenty of sex, and a steely eyed, hard-bitten werewolf protagonist. The blurb on the back of the novel sells it as a mix of paranormal romance and WWII thriller. This is somewhat misleading, it is more of a spy thriller than it is a werewolf novel, and not really a romance at all. The protagonists lycanthropy is surprisingly incidental to most of the plot, and while there is plenty of sex, described in suitably flowery romance-novel language, none of the relationships are true love. However, as a WWII thriller the novel has some appeal. The writing is fairly pulpy, and the plot veers towards the melodramatic at times, but it is fast moving and entertaining, and kept me turning the pages.
The plot of the novel follows Michael Gallatin, who is as you have probably gathered by now a spy and a werewolf. He undertakes a mission into Nazi occupied Europe to investigate a mysterious operation Iron Fist; a German secret weapon that may imperil the planned D-day invasion. Gallatin's efforts to discover the secret of Iron Fist and stop it going into action lead him from occupied France to Germany and the heart of the Third Reich, and from elegant hotels to secret chemical warfare factories. I found the pace at which we learn the details of Iron Fist a little too slow for my taste; most of the book is finished before we even learn why it is a threat to the D-Day invasion. This left me without a sense of urgency for most of the book; the reader keeps being told how essential Gallatin's mission is, but without more information on the threat this fails to have an impact.
Alongside this main story is a series of flashbacks to Gallatin's childhood, starting from the fateful day his family is killed and he himself is inducted into a werewolf pack. I actually enjoyed this back-story more than the main story; the younger Gallatin is not as larger-than-life as his later uber-spy self, and the fantasy elements are much more apparent. I loved learning about how a werewolf pack functions and what life is like hunting for prey in the Russian forest; the story of WWII espionage never quite engaged me to the same extent.
There is also a new, previously unpublished Michael Gallatin story included. This story sees Gallatin on yet another mission, this time into Germany itself, in which he is required to seduce a Nazi agent, with unexpected consequences. This story is much darker and more depressing than the novel; other than that it doesn't differ in any major respect.
The writing is definitely on the pulpy side. Gallatin is an action hero protagonist, shooting up Germans and seducing several beautiful resistance fighters he is teamed up with. The writing is effective, if a bit crude, and the action scenes are well done. It was light reading, without a lot of thought required, and if that is what you’re looking for it fits the bill quite well.
I enjoyed reading The Wolf's Hour, although I don't think I'll be moved to revisit it any time soon. The historical detail is well done, the story fast paced and action packed, and the writing competent and very readable. It's not a classic, but it makes for some solid entertainment.