So, small spoiler alert, the titular wolf wasn’t that big of a player. Also, I super, super LOVED the Mistress--but a dragon, seriously? Kind of ruined it for me. Scary, yes, but ruined it.
Sequel to The Mark of the Thief and second part of the Mark of the Thief Trilogy, Rise of the Wolf is a spectacular book. I couldn’t tell you how unreliable a narrator Nic is, but he’s certainly an unpredictable protagonist as he struggles to stay ahead of his enemies. The Praetors are determined to recover both Caesar’s bulla and the Malice of Mars to aid the goddess Diana in waging a rebellion against the other Roman gods, a conflict that could destroy Rome and perhaps the world, although we have to take everyone’s word for it on that.
Nic only wants to escape his enemies and protect his loved ones, but in order to survive he has to turn unwillingly to his (spoiler) grandfather General Radulf for help. Radulf has trained Nic to be a chariot racer, and Nic makes a (really stupid) bet with the Praetors that will hopefully save his life and keep the Praetors away from him and the Malice. But of course, everything backfires. I saw that coming a mile away.
We return to some familiar places, but the Circus Maximus racing stadium in Rome is the new haunt for Nic and his showdowns with Radulf and the Praetors. The descriptions of the chariot races can be kind of hard to follow, but the climactic race was actually a lot of fun, all things considered. There isn’t a lot of backstory for what’s going on aside from what gets roughly summarized, which while it makes for a smoother read it’s harder to keep track of what’s going on and why.
Nic’s sister Livia has a much bigger presence in this book, and it’s easy to see why Nic is so determined to protect her: she is the literal sunshine of his life. Aurelia is amazing right from the start, but I’m not sure how well of a finish she had. The romantic tension is building appropriately, I will say that much, but the love triangle seems like too much additional stress for Nic on top of everything else. Just...WHY? But, shipping conflicts aside, Crispus is the real MVP. He gets some awesome character development in this book. Calling it now: I ship Crispus with Livia and they will be together next book.
|Fanart I made|
The Praetors are appropriately creepy villains, led by the snivelling Decimus Brutus. But the Mistress...dang, I love her. She is so evil and awesome. General Radulf is still a bad guy, but as Nic works with him more we learn more about his motives. He’s actually a lot more complicated, and his relationship to Nic adds to the tension of the plot. We do get Caela back for one scene (d’aaaaw!) but most of the animal element of Rise of the Wolf is supplied by a unicorn, Callistus. Callistus is actually pretty cool. The author makes it pretty clear that he’s a serious unicorn, not a cute pet but a wild and dangerous but still magical animal. The Vestalis from Caesar’s temple in the first book is back, and she supplies the needed element of absolute good that this series has been needing: and a contrast, in fact, to the absolute evil of the Mistress. And the Roman gods? They are very, very real in this world. Of course Nic assumes that they cursed him with all of his bad luck, but I reckon he hasn’t seen anything yet.
The conclusion of the trilogy, Wrath of the Storm, comes out next January. Not soon enough.