An Apprentice to Elves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

Review copy provided by Tor Books. In addition, both of the authors are personal friends of mine for some years now.

Are reviewers allowed to write “NOW–THE TRIUMPHANT CONCLUSION,” or is that only for marketing copy?

This is the third in its series, and the trellwolves and their humans are still–mostly–at the center of its stage. But not in the same form: the new main character, Alfgyfa, is a young woman who has apprenticed to the svartalfar smith, Tin. (Smithing! Smithery! Hurrah!) While she can sense the trellwolves–while her sense of the wolfpack turns out to be relevant to her future as well as her personality and personal history–this book gives all sorts of angles on the surroundings and support of the trellwolf pack. It lets Alfgyfa explore the twists and turns of a space shaped by the other species around her–and a self shaped by a childhood among those species.

In addition to Alfgyfa’s adventures, we hear quite a lot from Otter, adopted daughter of the wolfheall, finding her way among the annoyances of tithe-boys and the joys of a newish-to-her society. Otter watches details. Otter notices people, even the wolf kind of people. Two kinds of alfar, trolls, wolves wild and domestic, humans….

Humans. Humans are the problem. Humans are only part of the solution, but they’re really pretty much all of the problem in this book. Monkeys, we say in my house, are a lot of trouble, and empires that do not understand the cultures they are trampling are even more trouble than individual monkeys. The resolution of both this individual book plot and the intercultural/interspecies weaving that has been going on all trilogy is so satisfying that I emailed the authors, “YAWP,” about it. Highly, highly recommended. Great fun even for those less Viking-influenced than I.

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