Curtis Jobling, the author of Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, is also the brains behind Bob the Builder. A book combining Bob the Builder with such a title might not sound very promising to you. In fact, you might note that the very title Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf sounds as corny as you always imagined Bob the Builder to be. Well, if that’s the case, you are spot on.
Much epicness in this one
The first thirty pages introduce us to Drew, a sheepherder who lives in a backwater town in the middle of nowhere. You know the kind—a town that is defenseless against any orc, trolloc, or wererat—yes, really, I just said “wererat”—attack, with the nearest payphone hundreds of miles away. Drew has a father who hates him and a brother who is completely different from him. His mother loves him, though, as do his sheep. Except this full moon, they seem frightened of him. No matter, we shall move on, not dwelling on the subtle foreshadowing.
One night, all hell breaks loose. Drew’s father and brother are conveniently out of town as his mother is telling him that he is indeed very different, because… KABAM! A monstrous creature storms in. Drew is feeling a bit weak after staring at the full moon, so he is powerless—guilt is perfect for future force-fed character development!—to stop the monster from brutally ripping his mom’s throat out. Not before she yells some ridiculously obvious things for foreshadowing purposes, though. Suddenly, Drew changes into a monster too—too much moonlight is very bad for your health!—and fights the other monster.
No cliché spared
In the epic journey that follows, Drew discovers he is the chosen one: the last living werewolf among heaps of other werecreatures such as werebears, wereboars (please, Jobling, no more piggy and fatty jokes!), werebadgers, werelizards (also known as the evil lizardmen), weresharks, and other types of werefish. He is destined to battle the evil dark lord King Leopard the werelion; very vague prophesies say so.
As you can tell, no trope or cliché of the epic fantasy genre is spared. Though slightly entertaining at first, this becomes annoying very quickly, an annoyance that is only further underlined by the extreme predictability of the story. Anyone who has previously read fantasy novels will be able to guess what happens next at any point in Rise of the Wolf. The foreshadowing, as already mentioned in my little summary, is obvious and blatant.
Significant lack of werecockroaches
Another nuisance is Jobling’s habit of ending chapters on cliffhangers, only to start the next chapter with an entirely random “alternative” viewpoint. A good example is the chapter where Drew is jailed. Instead of starting the next chapter watching Drew in his cell, we follow a cockroach as it scuttles across the floor of the cell to eat some discarded bread, only to be attacked by a rat. Only then, after wasting two perfectly good pages, do we see Drew watching the vermin run away. It wasn’t even a werecockroach, either.
This takes its toll in the overall pacing of the story, which was already slow to begin with. As with many a poorly written epic journey, a lot is underway, but nothing really seems to contribute to the main story. As such, it is very easy to lay the book down. Suspense is almost nonexistent. Admittedly, though, the last thirty pages were different. The final battle—you probably already saw a final battle coming—was in fact quite exciting to read, with thrilling fighting sequences and a fairly interesting, albeit predictable, solution.
Don’t read Rise of the Wolf for its characterizations, either. Jobling’s characters are stereotyped and morally monotonous. Oftentimes, I wondered how main characters such as Drew and his friends Hector and Gretchen could be so extremely perfect. Sure, there was some force-fed character development (“Oh no, I killed a man! No matter that he was about to stab me through the heart, I will feel awful about this for weeks!”), but overall, these characters always seemed to make the right choices without question. On the opposite side stand thoroughly corrupt nobles and a petty, truly evil, dark king. The only interesting character was that of Vala the wereshark, whose motives were not entirely clear for a while. In the end, though, even he fell perfectly into a stereotyped role.
Why should you read this book?
You might have guessed, but I honestly believe you shouldn’t read Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf. Perhaps you could buy this YA novel for your eight-year-old kid, if you want to familiarize them with all the popular tropes of fantasy in only 450 pages. Otherwise, however, I advise you to keep a clear berth. Of course, that’s just my opinion, so just to balance it a bit, here is a review from someone who did enjoy Rise of the Wolf.
No (were)animals were harmed while writing this review.
Stephan received a review copy courtesy of Penguin Teen.