Review: The Wolf’s Sun

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: there are too few quality historical fiction narratives yet lodged among the hall of trophies on the indie side of literary manor. Karen Charbonneau`s marvelous delivery is surely among them.

But first, a summary, in the book’s own words:

In this sweeping historical novel of 17th century France, the wrath and power of Louis XIV are felt all the way to Keltic Brittany near the Bay of the Dead.

Born into the peasant culture, a mixture of ancient pagan beliefs mixed with Catholicism, is the girl Anna, a bastard looking like no one in her parish – her mother would not tell who her father was. Taught the use of herbs by the women of her family, she also has the gift of healing – a power also attributed to French and English kings who were said to heal scrofula with their touch. This ability will cause one man, a physician, to attempt to use her for his own glorification, and another, a Jesuit, to work to send her to a fiery death.

The Wolf’s Sun is a beautifully crafted, richly detailed rendering of 17th century France, peppered with a cast of colorful characters and historical tidbits that leave us with a book I can describe only as “sweeping” in scope. And it is at that. This is a long read, but well worth it. Not only does one become engrossed in the mechanisms and doings of the characters, when you emerge again from the captivating narrative, you find yourself pondering how much you have actually learned, actually pulled still fresh and gleaming from the fertile wealth of that rich French soil.

To say it plainly: this book is well-researched, and planted easily among the boundaries of its period of history. It also helps that it is well edited, and professionally delivered–I doubt you shall ever feel stricken by any sense of “amateur hour” while in the midst of this book.

But I caution thus: it is slow to get going. You will likely ponder, in the first 10% of the book or so, just what the point is, and where it is going. Because this is not just a story, it is the telling of a life, and the lives around it, and for that, that central crux takes some getting to. While in later chapters the multiple viewpoints structure gives us a great deal of insight into the characters, and to the events surrounding, in the beginning it has something of a muddled effect, pulling us this way and that without seeing the why, or even, who shall be our inevitable fixing point. When this shifts, however, you will know it, and Wolf’s Sun truly hits smooth sailing from then on.

Through Charbonneau’s writing we see a vibrant world, carefully honed and crafted, with figures and scenes that are strikingly realistic…and captivating for it. It puts us, as well, in a unique scandal–the Affair with Poisons–and delivers it to us in a way that, in spite of its breadth, never feels bogged down by its details, but rather, enhances its portrait. This is not a quick read by any means. But for the patient, and the great fan of history, it is well worth the investment of time.

I definitely recommend it.

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