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Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!

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Book Review: Lamp Black, Wolf Grey by Paula Brackston

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey - Paula Brackston

Artist Laura Matthews finds her new home in the Welsh mountains to be a place so charged with tales and legends that she is able to reach through the gossamer-fine veil that separates her own world from that of myth and fable.

She and her husband Dan have given up their city life and moved to Blaencwm, an ancient longhouse high in the hills. Here she hopes that the wild beauty will inspire her to produce her best art and will give her the baby they have longed for. But this high valley is also home to others, such as Rhys the charismatic loner who pursues Laura with fervor. And Anwen, the wise old woman from the neighboring farm who seems to know so much but talks in riddles. And then there is Merlin.

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey tells both Laura's story and Merlin's. For once he too walked these hills, with his faithful grey wolf at his heel. It was here he fell in love with Megan, nurse-maid to the children of the hated local noble, Lord Geraint. Merlin was young, at the start of his renowned career as a magician, but when he refuses to help Lord Geraint it is Megan who may pay the price.


Reviewed from ARC provided by St. Martin's Griffin.


POVs: Two

Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense, Subjective


I honestly had to think a while before writing this review, because my initial reaction toward Lamp Black, Wolf Grey was a sort of bewildered frown, and I wasn't quite sure why the book had missed the mark with me in such a major way. Like all of Brackston's books, the writing was extremely well done, clear, concise and beautiful, always with that slightly lyrical slant that expounds the love felt for the Welsh countryside. The plot was interesting in some parts,  in a 'bunny boiler' thriller kind of way. It's well paced and a fast moving read. So why the negative reaction?



As I thought on it, it was actually pretty clear as to why I reacted the way I did. Between major events, it was repetitive and the character development was pretty much non-existent. Personally, character development can make even a badly plotted book sing, it is essential that I perceive some sort of change, or I just find it dull. Laura, the 'present day' point of view was just stuck on repeat. Everything move she made, every mistake, every excuse, every explanation, every want, every feeling she presents was because of one reason: she wants children, but seemingly can't concieve.


And look, maybe for some women, having children becomes an obsession, where it becomes the central reason for their very existence; I'm sure it happens. However, a whole book that hinges on that notion and hits the replay button, and essentially stops a character having any real forward momentum, just doesn't launch. The only change seen, is at the very end in the epilogue, leaving it way to late! Which brings me to the next scrunchy face I pulled.


Merlin. It's very hard to explain why he's in this book, without giving things away, but suffice to say, this is not really a book for those who love the character in his previous incarnations. The secondary story line presented through the point of view of Megan, (which is how Merlin is first presented in the book), was probably the story I was hoping to read, though it too never really gets off the ground. Seeing snatches of Megan, and even smaller snatches of Merlin, it just rushes through without any real background story, just an evil lord who toys with the two, because they won't comply to his will. There is the love story, but you never actually get to see play out in any way that gives the reader an investment in the 'apparent' lovers motivations. It seems the whole purpose of this secondary plot is simply to fuel the epilogue. Which was so trite I almost had to stop myself from guffawing in consternation.


I hate the labelling of a genre 'women's fiction' because it's such an insulting term, but if I was going to hazard a guess about what it such a genre might include, I suppose this book might be in it? It's very much about a problem a woman might have to overcome, but it really isn't fantasy in the way most fans of that genre would perceive it. Maybe, women's fiction with a waft of cheeky fantasy would be a better way to explain it...





Hardcopy Worthy: No, sorry.