The Tiger and the Wolf
Book One of the Echoes of the Fall
by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Fantasy | 590 Pages | Published by Tor UK in 2016
Bleak. Brutal. Brilliant. The Tiger and the Wolf is a unique and powerful novel, where loyalties are defined by birth and where cultures clash with spectacular frequency. Adrian Tchaikovsky has succeeded in creating a novel with incredible scope and limitless vision; a vivid depiction of a world inspired by the cultures of our past and told in a style unique to this series. This is a novel where only the strong will survive, where the weak will perish and where wars are played out both on the battlefield and within the soul.
In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming
Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer Broken Axe in pursuit.
Maniye’s father plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, a time of testing and broken laws. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. But what spark will set the world ablaze?
The first in the Echoes of the Fall series follows the story of Maniye, a young Wolf and Tiger halfbreed of the wolf tribe, the Winter Runners. As daughter of her tribe’s Chief, Maniye struggles to put the wishes off her father and the tribe before her desires for freedom. With war threatened between the tribes and the struggle for power becoming ever apparent, Maniye must choose between the dangers within her tribe and those without. With a narrative which weaves magic, folklore and a clash of cultures, this is survival of the fittest on an epic scale.
The Tiger and the Wolf is a world of shapeshifters, a world where every tribe, every clan and every society worships a different animal god; their souls taking on the form of this totem allowing the individual to ‘step’ into their animal form. The narrative slowly etches out a detailed history of a world populated by a myriad of different peoples whose cultures and way of life are defined by their animal totems. From the cold brutality of the north, to the hot River Lands of the south, each setting further shapes the people who inhabit it – and their place on the food chain.
We begin this novel with the wolves, a brutal, hard and unforgiving people who’ve learned to survive in the cold northern climate, a people who glory in death and revel in war. The wolf tribes are a fascinating and terrifying society who thrive in conditions which would be the death of others, but whose harsh and brutal way of life brings something of a depressing outlook to the future of our protagonist. This bleak aspect is diverted however by the introduction of new characters and settings over the course of the novel.
The many tribes and people who inhabit this vast and impressive landscape bring a sense of depth to the narrative; the solitary bears, the graceful deer, the nomadic horse and the foe of all wolves, the dark and mysterious tiger, all bring a rich and vivid quality to the world. But whilst we get a picture of many of these people, the emphasis in this novel is on the predators, those warlike people and cultures who bring a bloody dimension to the novel, a dimension which Tchaikovsky consistently executes with skill and precision.
Whilst The Tiger and the Wolf depicts a wonderfully crafted and detailed world, the characterisation also contributes heavily to the overall feel of the novel. This is a world where each character and every society has something of their totem animal about them, creating distinctive animalistic personalities whilst, for the most part, avoiding the creation of one dimensional societal groups.
Maniye is a wonderfully innocent and conflicted protagonist whose place in the world and whose future is always less than certain. She conveys a sense of innocence and pragmatism at all times and the duality of her warring souls gives a well rounded dimensionality to her character, an aspect that can sometimes be a bit one sided in the ‘extras’ of the novel.
The supporting cast however bring diversity and excitement to the narrative with the north fielding the mysterious killer Broken Axe, the solitary Loud Thunder, and the power hungry chief of the Winter Runners, Akrit Stone River; and the south introducing the strange cultures of the snake priests, crocodile champions and Laughing Men in a landscape where pirates and warriors abound. This impressive array of characters and cultures are more than enough to capture the imagination and carry over the excitement into the next novel.
The Tiger and the Wolf is a fantastic series opener written in a wonderfully unique style, a style which almost takes you to the side of a campfire in the dead of night, listening to the shrieks of owls and tales of long forgotten ages. Tchaikovsky has created a beautiful and brutal world where the clash of cultures and tribal skirmishes are part of daily existence, and which comes across as unique in both its execution and as an addition to his impressive literary repertoire. The Tiger and the Wolf is a beautiful novel which showcases the diversity that is becoming ever apparent in Tchaikovsky’s work and which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. This long anticipated novel didn’t fail to impress and, with the publication of Spiderlight in the summer, it looks like Tchaikovsky will continue to make his presence felt in the world of genre fiction – or, at the very least, on my bookshelf.