Review: Wolfsbane, by Gillian Philip



Series: Rebel Angels #3 | Genre: Fantasy (Adult/YA) | Publisher: Strident Publishing | Publication date: August 2012 (UK) | My rating: 4/5

It’s tough being the foretold saviour of your race. Rory MacSeth, kept a virtual prisoner in his own father’s dun and hunted by the Sithe queen, needs a break now and then – and what better fun than tearing the Veil no one else can tear, and escaping to the Otherworld?

In that dangerous Otherworld, Hannah Falconer is as trapped by circumstance as the strange wild Sithe boy whose horse nearly kills her. When Rory tricks her into crossing the Veil and entering his own world, she’s sure it can’t be any worse than her usual home life…

Meanwhile, Seth MacGregor is fighting to keep his clann safe from the malevolent queen Kate. When an attack comes after years of stalemate, he is shocked to discover who is leading it…and who else is conspiring against him.

Will the cunning and experience of five hundred years be enough to confront the threat? And how many friends, and how many lovers, is Seth willing to sacrifice to keep his son?

Oh, this series. My feels. SO MANY.

Ahem. *Serious reviewer face* Just a note before I start nattering – this review will very likely contain at least mild spoilers for books 1 and 2 in this series. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, but at this point as you might guess, not talking about them would make this review a lot harder to write than it needs to be…

Gillian Philip’s Rebel Angels series has, so far, been among my favourite fantasy series in recent years – indeed, possibly ever. Her worldbuilding, her characters, their relationships and misadventures, even the sheer beautiful strength of the prose used to relate them, it all kicks me in the heart, and Wolfsbane is no exception.

The mix of adult and young adult themes works wonderfully, as well. As with the previous book, we get a variety of points of view, chiefly from the first book’s protagonist, the lovable (and sometimes despicable) Seth MacGregor, his son Rory – prophesied to be the fabled Bloodstone sought by the Sithe’s wicked queen, Kate – and, new to this book after certain pivotal events in Book Two, Hannah Falconer. Hannah is a troubled youth from the mortal world, who finds herself among the Sithe when she’s spirited out of her world by Rory and into his. The two misfit youths then proceed to cause no end of trouble for Seth, but of course there’s far more to it than any of them realise at first…

(I won’t say more about Hannah here because Spoilers, but there were many feels here, in particular. Feels of the helplessly sniffly kind. Damn it, Gillian!)

After the events in Bloodstone, Seth is still dealing with (and in certain cases, suffering) the fallout from what he’s done, both from without his clann – and within. He seems to be struggling to hold things together, to keep his son safe, and to move on from the loss of his brother. Seth has never been perfect, and he makes what appear to be questionable choices and bad decisions – but he makes you care, whether you love him or want to slap him. In my case there was much of both going on, and that deserves a nod of respect to his writer.

As for that finale itself, we see the return of an old enemy for what turns into one of the most tense, edge-of-my-seat confrontations I’ve read in a long, long time, near the end of the book. Again, I can only say so much, both for new readers’ sakes and that of anyone who just hasn’t read this book yet – but trust me. There was GAH. It’s here that the fine line walked by Seth MacGregor between hero and utter bastard is, once again, shown so wonderfully well by his writer. He’ll never wear the proverbial shining armour, but then again, the most interesting characters never do.

There’s a definite sense of the end drawing near for the series, beyond simply the book count, and as I’ve said already in my Twitter squealing, part of me doesn’t want to reach that end! I’m going to be heartbroken to say goodbye to these people after book 4 is read and done…

*Deep calming breath*

Okay, onto the Serious Reviewing again for a moment. I gave Wolfsbane four stars, where books 1 and 2 both got five out of five, for one (slightly glaring) reason – the first half of the book, especially when compared to the previous two, takes a little too long to really get going. The story feels a little meandering, at least until certain events come around to kick it into a higher gear… It didn’t stop me reading, not at all, but it’s something I certainly took notice of. While this might seem a little overly critical (it does, even to me) I feel like I should also point out in its defense that, at this point, nitpicking is what I’m left with. The series is just that good, in my opinion – I’ve come to expect the best from this writer, because I know she bloody well delivers it. And, with the exception of that one pacing issue, she bloody well does.

So to sum up, this is another deeply heartwrenching chapter in a story that sweeps me up and carries me away every time, and I will be truly sorry to see it end – but at the same time, I have no intention whatsoever of giving it up just yet. Onward to Icefall, tea and tissues at the ready…


My reviews of the previous books, for those who haven’t read them:

Frost Child (prequel novella) | Firebrand | Bloodstone


5 thoughts on “Review: Wolfsbane, by Gillian Philip

  1. I love this series (Seth does have a certain attraction as well I confess!).

    Gillian Philip is great – I must go and read Icefall – NOW!!!

    Lynn 😀

  2. Looks like we have to wait a bit longer for this one to be release over on this side of the pond. But of course I still need to read the second book to catch up!

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