The Wolves of Solomon is a novel by ex-pat British author R.L. Blackhurst. Ms Blackhurst now lives in the South Island of New Zealand with her partner. I came across The Wolves of Solomon when Ms Blackhurst posted the novel for review in the Facebook group Review Seekers (the New Zealand connection is entirely coincidental). It was originally intended for my son to read and review; the original post on Facebook said something along the lines of “This is not strictly YA”, and I seized on the YA part. But then I got embarrassed at how long it was taking him to get around to reading it, so I did it myself. Although there are no graphic sex scenes, and the violence, though strong, is not OTT or gratuitous, the sexual themes and references do make it a book for adults. For example, one of the main characters, when he’s not frequenting brothels, gets his kicks out of raping and murdering women.
So. Age appropriateness dealt with. On with the review.
First, the negatives. This novel is a diamond in the rough which could be polished into a gem with the help of an assured editorial hand. A lot of the dialogue is punctuated incorrectly, the author never met a dialogue tag that she didn’t think could be ‘improved’ with an adverb, and there is far too much filtering; she frequently tells us (over 300 times – I searched the document) that a viewpoint character ‘knew’ this or ‘knew’ that, when it’s pretty obvious who is doing the knowing, therefore it doesn’t need to be stated. Yes, I understand that most indie authors can’t afford professional editing services, but that’s a bit like saying that most independent doctors can’t afford medical training, so their patients should just shut up and overlook their little errors (OK, that analogy is a bit extreme, but you know what I mean. I hope).
And yet, I still gave the novel four stars on Amazon.
Why? Because the things she does well outweigh a few easily-remedied writerly bad habits. The central premise – The Templar Knights were really werewolves under cover – is pure speculative fiction gold. Blackhurst seamlessly weaves this premise into an historical tale of the demise of the Templar Knights at the hands of King Philip IV of France in the fourteenth century, and overlays it all with the romance between Templar Knight Galeren de Massard and Catherine, a novice nun sent to a convent in disgrace by her unforgiving father. I don’t know much about the true history of the Knights Templar, but it appears that Blackhurst does; the story has a ring of authenticity about it, and the political plotline is exquisitely depicted. The characterisation is strong and the protagonists are heroic, yet just flawed enough to be sympathetic. You’ll often hear a novel described as having something for everyone, and in this case, it’s close to true. It’s a genre melange of historical novel, horror and paranormal romance which should appeal to lovers of all three genres.