Woodland Creatures: Wild Souls Volume One by Cristina Roswell, Fali Ruiz-Dávila, Tomás Aira
Experts think that we should reintroduce the wolf to the more remote parts of Scotland. The deer are out of control, are destroying the trees and generally causing chaos to the ecosystem. A pack of our lupine friends ranging across the highland landscape would cut down on deer numbers and help save the environment. It would also allow us to reacquaint ourselves with this charismatic mammal that once lived all over these islands.
Woodland Creatures: Wild Souls also has charismatic beasts roaming in unfamiliar lands where their ancestors once ruled. Not wolves but lycanthropes – werewolves, travelling far from their Alaskan wilderness home to the dangerous streets of New York. Christopher Szilágyi and Calliope Conway are two of the supernatural beasts who have a mission in the Big Apple, accompanied by their Amaroqs – giant wolves of Inuit legend. These werewolves don’t shape-shift but rather have a mental link with their Amaroq.
While Calliope can’t resist pursuing her hunting instincts she is brought into the mission of her boyfriend Chris. He is attending an urgent meeting at the United Nations. Military leaders are seeking to weaponise the potential of the werewolves. When Christopher, himself a military veteran still suffering from PTSD, pushes back then things take a darker turn. Facing dirty tricks and mercenary werewolves Chris and Calliope have to use both their human cunning and wolf savagery to survive.
If you knew what my ‘bestial nature’ could do to you, you’d bite your tongue.Woodland Creatures
In Woodland Creatures Cristina Roswell explores the relationship between nature and civilisation. The werewolves have a dark and savage part of their being which they struggle to keep under control. This is clearly seen in the aggressive and even cruel ‘hunting’ of humans by Calliope. But in a wider sense they are the ones who are coming into the crosshairs of human civilisation, just like their wolf sisters and brothers.
The attempts by Christopher to resist bringing the lycanthropes into the military imply that he sees the wild and natural aggression of the werewolves as preferable to the industrialised slaughter offfered by human society and especially the military-industrial complex of rich Western nations.
The werewolves then cannot be reduced just to beasts ruled by their lusts and instinct anymore than humans can be. The book also shows other humans who resist the plans of the generals
The characters of Chris and Calliope have a lot of potential for exploration in future volumes. Chris with his troubled past in the military and Calliope with her immature lack of empathy for others (especially humans) both present a different take on the anti-hero and there is plenty of room for development and exploration of their characters.
As the first book of the series, by necessity a certain amount of space has to be devoted to exposition and worldbuilding. The next installment will hopefully provide more space to develop the dynamic between the two principal characters as well as giving us more glimpses of werewolf culture.
The artwork by Tomás Aira, who worked on Garth Ennis’ War Stories for Dark Horse, has a clean and professional feel. He captures the movement and personalities of the Amaroq wolves – this is crucial in the story and is done brilliantly. The animal instincts of Calliope also come to life on the page, we can feel the tensed muscles and taste the blood in her mouth. The divide between nature and ‘civilisation’ is captured in a wonderful page that sees Chris and Calliope in their apartment, surrounded by huge Amaroq wolves, looking out onto the twinkling lights of the city, a city full of peril.
If you are a fan of urban fantasy you will enjoy exploring the world of the Alaskan lycanthropes and Woodland Creatures individual take on the werewolf genre. This series has a lot of potential and I hope it will not be too many moons until the next volume.