I have previously not read any books by Ms Gent, and was delighted to discover this talented author. Her descriptive passages in particular are excellent, imparting detail and atmosphere with a minimum of words. Through Ms Gent’s writing, I am transported back to the foul and dangerous underbelly of London that was – more specifically to Whitechapel in the latter half of the 19th century.
I must come clean and admit that I would generally not read a book about werewolves. This doesn’t mean I don’t find these fantasy creatures intriguing, and Ms Gent does a good job in anchoring her story in ancient myths and folklore, all the way from how to become a werewolf to how to kill it. She doesn’t do this by writing page up and down about myths, instead she has Jack, the unfortunate outcome of a werewolf/human relationship, and therefore understandably confused about who he is. Once Jack has discovered his parentage, he sets out on a quest to learn more about the more sinister side of his ancestors, and along the way he becomes obsessed with everything Wolf.
The werewolves in Ms Gent’s book are polished, civilised beings, who go about their lives as discreetly as possible. Come the full moon, they change into wolves and kill the odd human or two. To the werewolves, the humans are a food source that must be protected – much as a shepherd protects his flock. Not an entirely domesticated food source, because the werewolves have learnt over the years that the humans can make ferocious enemies when riled – which is why the werewolf society goes to great lengths to keep their existence hidden. To do so, there are a number of rules regulating the interaction with humans, and one of the more fundamental laws is that the offspring of a werewolf/human union must be killed. Poor Jack.
Or maybe not so poor Jack, because as the novel progresses, the well-behaved little boy who accompanied his father to the zoo and was the apple of his mother’s eye, develops into a ruthless savage, a man overcome by primitive lusts when the moon is full. That in itself is tragic – Jack can’t help who he is – but Jack is no passive victim to the wolf within, instead he embraces it, convinced that he, being of both human and werewolf descent, is more powerful than either of the species.
Not wanting to reveal too much of the plot, let’s just say that Jack loses it. Big time. His actions lead to panic, people are scared of venturing outside after dark and the police is brought out in large numbers to little avail. The werewolf community is equally concerned; what exactly is it that is haunting the streets of London?
Enter Hazel, werewolf extraordinaire, defender of her species. Born human, she became a werewolf centuries ago when she was bitten, and has by now reconciled herself with her new identity. There are some passages in the book where she is worried she’s gone soft and squeamish, but I can assure you,dear reader, you will not find her anything but tough. I like how Ms Gent has portrayed her werewolves, because despite their superficial resemblance to humans, these creatures are far less prone to emotions. Someone threatens you? Kill them. Someone breaks the law? Kill them. Someone begs for mercy? Kill them. Somewhat simplistic, but most effective.
Without further spoilers, let me just say Cruel and Unusual is quite the read. It will keep you awake long after your bedtime, it will have you looking over your shoulder as you stroll through the dark, and while some of you will probably hope to catch a glimpse of an elusive creature with burning eyes, I personally much prefer not to. Life is scary enough as it is, without imagining it populated by werewolves – no matter how sophisticated they may be.
As stated already at the beginning, I rarely read books about werewolves. But now that I’ve discovered Ms Gent, I am quite sure I will at least read a couple more – as long as they’ve got her name on the cover!
About Michelle Gent
Reading Ms Gent’s bio, one gets the distinct impression that super werewolf Hazel might have quite a lot in common with her creator. Ms Gent is no retiring violet, this lady kick-boxes to keep fit, has worked as a door supervisor at night cubs and pubs, and is since some years back also a published author.
Cruel and Unusual is published by Gingernut books and is available everywhere books are sold.
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Anna Belfrage is the author of four published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17thc, the book tells the story of Matthew Graham and his time travelling wife, Alex Lind.
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