Monday, August 13, 2018

Nothing...and then the Kitchen Sink: Wolf Winter

I was drawn into Cecelia Ekback's Wolf suggestions of something harsh, terrible, and not altogether human in the desolate Swedish mountains. What I got was bamboozled by vivid writing into reading a story that was about nothing for about 90 % of the time.

It started off well enough, with the young Fredericka finding a mutilated corpse. Her mother, Maija, has a keen eye for detail, and realizes that the late Eriksson was done in by a human, not a wolf. She may have a gift of second sight, or a cunning woman's healing, or be able to speak to spirits. I can't tell. The book never decided. But for when real characters aren't developed you can always count upon the "newly demoted priest" to take an interest, if forced, into discovering whodunnit.

That was the first few pages. Then winter happened, and well, nothing happened. It was all very detailed, all very drawn out, and the pacing was an absolute killer. But here and there were hints of plot, so I plodded right along, taking longer to finish this book than any other title I can remember in at least a year. There is a very vehement attempt to be atmospheric. And while I certainly understood the daunting nature of living up in the middle of absolute nowhere in the 1700s, the supernatural intentions for the story were schizophrenic; there was a ghost that didn't act like a ghost (and by that, I mean altogether too human and corporeal), mountain spirits that were never described, even in amorphous terms, and overlapping and contradictory references to past occultish events (ie witch trials) not included anywhere in the text and therefore made irrelevant, though the book would have you believe something that never "happened" in the story is the cornerstone of character.

What had been a heap of excrutiatingly detailed nothing became everything, and any semblance of plot structure, coherence, or internal logic went right out the window. Fuck pacing. The last fifty or so pages felt rushed and slapped together out of too many little threads that didn't connect to each other in any meaningful way. Oh right, and then there was the mystery to solve, so that was handled in hideously tropish fashion.

I haven't felt so spent from reading a book in some time. And I don't appreciate my time being wasted by books pretending to be something they aren't. Literally from nowhere, the resolution to the plot involved political tensions that didn't exist for the entire book, and hence literally made no sense. In the Author Note at the back of the book, Ekback gives all kinds of historical context, but none of that found its way into the book itself-it had zero connection to anything of substance in the story, if I can even say there was substance. (I can't.) The part that really had me fuming was where she admitted that she threw a bunch of ideas together about paganism and witchcraft, b/c she couldn't find anything authentic. About paganism and witchcraft in Europe during the trial years. Nope, no one's ever written about that, or recorded pre-Christian cultures. 0_0

I understand it's fiction and all, so maybe this isn't the best way to say it. But when you're writing a story, especially a piece of historical fiction, you can't just make shit up.

K Rating: 1/5

Image result for dark mountainside
If I get stuck here, I'm NOT bringing Wolf Winter. I'd rather be eaten by the real deal.

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