Thursday, 10 September 2015
A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
This is the story of men who bond with wolves in a vaguely Norse setting, then, with their wolven brothers and sisters, fight off encroaching trolls. There's a lot of fighting, some exploring of tunnels, a lot of sex.
And really, the first thought I had was, this is a great extrapolation on Anne McCaffrey.
Bear with me. (Wolf with me?) In the Pern books, when dragons mate, their riders do as well. This is mostly shown in a heterosexual context, with the women who ride the queens generally taking the bronze riders as mates. However, there is a subtext that takes into consideration the green riders, whose dragons are female but riders are mostly male. It's never explicit, although there's one scene with the Oldtimers that makes it fairly clear that the same sort of thing happens.
So this book is what happens if you take that and make the subtext text. All the people bonded with wolves are men. Doesn't matter whether the wolves are male or female. Monette and Bear take this a step further, though. While dragon sexual urges seem to mesh perfectly well with human ones, these two authors do not try to make human and wolf sexual urges perfectly simpatico.
We see this through the eyes of Isolfr, bonded to a konigenwolf, who goes through all her first heats, including at least one mass mating. While he is mostly heterosexual by choice, he wasn't entirely unwilling to explore sex with men when under his sisterwolf's compulsion. But the mass mating, that's another story. It's difficult, it's rough, and he doesn't want it, but endures. It's thorny, and that's where this book becomes a little bit more than porn with plot. (I have no problem with porn with plot, I just love it when people bring actual issues into it.) The ways animals have sex is not the same as the way people have sex. How do you deal with a partnership that has to accommodate both?
In the middle of this is Isolfr trying to figure out how to negotiate pack politics, in the midst of the worst troll attacks in generations. (And also having to deal with a father who is distinctly threatened by the idea of his son being paired to a konigenwolf and what that implies about his sexual practices. Not necessarily his sexuality, but his practices, which are different. Although the father doesn't see the distinction, or care.)
Women are a relatively minor part of this book, being relegated mostly to the hearth. By the end of the book, Isolfr is questioning that, and I'd be interested to see where the series goes from here. I enjoyed this, overall. It was interesting to read a book that had lots of entertaining sex, but also paired it with some more intense extrapolation on where the notion of bonding with an animal might lead someone.