I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher.
In Wolfhound Century, Peter Higgins has created a strange version of Russia. (Though it’s called the Vlast, there are Russian names and Russian folk creatures.) Three hundred years before the book begins, the moon split into two parts and an angel crashed to Earth. The angel’s arrival sparked a technological revolution. Angel skin lead to the creation of mudjhiks, golem-like creatures, among other things. Three hundred years before the book opens, a man who seems a lot like an analog of Peter the Great, founds the city of Mirgorod (possibly an analog of St. Petersburg) and launched an empire. Unfortunately, technology, art, and literature–and politics in particular–seem to have stalled shortly thereafter. Apart from the angels and rusalki and giants and other creatures, Mirgorod and Vlast seem a lot like turn of the twentieth century Russia.
Vissarion Lom is a police inspector in a provincial city when he is summoned to Mirgorod. The summons is a surprise as Lom is in some kind of obscure disgrace, but he’s been waiting for his chance for years. When he arrives, Lom is tasked with tracking down a terrorist named Josef Kantor. Lom soon finds that Kantor is no ordinary terrorist. He’s been protected by members of the Vlast militia far above Lom’s pay grade. To make matters even more complicated, it appears that Kantor is being manipulated by a living angel that is trapped somewhere out in the endless forest that covers most of the Vlast.
Wolfhound Century begins with a conflict between state and people that looks a lot like pre-Bolshevik Russia. But before long, it becomes a conflict between the old world and the angel, with Lom caught in the middle. Lom is not the only one caught. Maroussia Shaumian came to Mirgorod to find her father. After she is rejected by the man she thought was her father, Maroussia is targeted for assassination by the angel’s minions.
There’s a long part one before the brief part two begins. Given the pace of part two, I wonder if Wolfhound Century is just part of a longer work that got published in sections. There is an ending of sorts, but it’s not the big ending part one promised. I was a little disappointed at the ending here. I was so intrigued by the world Higgins created. Higgins does not explain or define his setting, leaving readers to pick things up from context. Some readers will be frustrated by this, but I love the ambiguity of Wolfhound Century.