Literature: The Wolfhound
is a series of a Low Fantasy
novels by a Russian fantasy and Historical Fiction
author Maria Semyonova.
He was condemned to death, but survived to wreak revenge for the murder of his clan. The last member of the clan of the Grey Hounds became a fearless warrior by the name of Wolfhound. After cheating death in the mines, Wolfhound sets out on a journey with his constant companion, the Earthbound Bat
. Wolfhound has but one desire – to destroy the Maneater
, a merciless warrior who slaughtered the village of the Grey Hounds.
After making the long journey to the Maneater’s castle, Wolfhound finally conquers his archenemy. He doesn't hope or want to survive
, but fate, it seems, has other plans for him. He frees two prisoners, the sage Tilorn and slave-girl Niilith and travels with them to the city of Galirad, where the king is giving his daughter away in political marriage to a young warlord Vinitar.
The king's daughter Princess Elen must travel to the land of her new husband, and asks Wolfhound to be her guard in this long and dangerous journey. Wolfhound agrees to serve the princess and is caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected events...
The second book explores new adventures of Wolfhound and his long-time companion, the young scholar
Eurych. The third and the fourth books see Wolfhound eventually finding his way back to the Jewel Mountains
, the hellish slave mine
he had once escaped from, to destroy this place once and for all.
There are also two books predating the events
of the main series: The Ultimate Stone
, a story of young Wolfhound (then Pup) surviving and escaping the slave mines, and its direct sequel Peace on the Road
, published in March 2014, which tells about the travels of Wolfhound and his mentor, Mother Kendarat.
In 2006, a film of the book
was produced in Russia under the title Wolfhound of the Clan of Grey Houndsnote
. In 2007, there was produced a TV series Young Wolfhound
, serving as a prequel to the film. The film and the TV series, while having many common plot points with the books, basically form a separate continuity.
Tropes in the books:
- Action Girl - Lady of War: Ertan.
- Action Pet: Earthbound Bat, especially when he gets back his ability to fly.
- Affably Evil: Kso'o Tarkim, the slave trader who brings Pup to the Jewel Mountains. By the fourth book, "The Jewel Mountains", he has degraded noticeably compared to his depiction in "The Ultimate Stone" (which takes place somewhat twenty years earlier), losing the "affably" part as well as his musical talent.
- All Myths Are True: A result of Wolfhound's spiritual progress. He never abandons his pagan beliefs, despite actually meeting (supposedly) real figures of the Twins' faith, such as their Mother, burying the Junior Twin's body by his own hands, and experiencing a mystical vision of their Father, Eternal and Unborn. At the same time he does turn into a were-dog, and later restarts his clan just as their legends describe it. He reconciles it in the syncretic belief system which is best described by the trope's name.
- Ambition Is Evil: Honomer. Oh dear, Honomer.
- Animal Motifs: Every Venn clan has an ancestor animal (or, at least in one case, an ancestor plant), from a union of which with a human woman the clan started long ago. This animal is venerated by the clan, and usually the clan has some abilities related to it. (Wolfhound has more than a usual share of abilities, because he's the Last of His Kind and a Chosen One.) For example, Venns of the Wolves clan have a special howl capable of warding evil, although this ability is almost forgotten now.
- Appropriated Appelation: Having never received a proper name, Wolfhound went by as Pup and later Dog in the slave mines. After he challenged and killed an overseer called Wolf, he was given his current moniker by the cheering slaves.
- Arrow Catch: Wolfhound can pretty reliably deflect arrows with his sword—sometimes even several arrows at once. Not because he can move faster than an arrow—he can't, of course. No, his combination of fighting experience and supernatural reading of his enemies' intentions allows him to correctly predict where arrows will strike.
- Avenging the Villain: The first book starts with Wolfhound avenging his massacred clan by killing the villainous Maneater, a.k.a. Vinitarius. Later, Vinitarius's son Vinitar—a just and noble leader—learns about that and decides to avenge his father. Interestingly, the reason is partially the fact that Wolfhound simply killed the Maneater, without properly challenging him to a one-on-one combat.
- Badass: A warrior has to be this to survive in a medieval fantasy world. Some individuals do stand out, however: Wolfhound, Vinitar and his men, Ertan, Iktash. And Vinitar's grandmother. See Never Mess with Granny.
- Badass Beard: Most male characters, save for clean-shaven Eurych, an Ancient Gromanian, and Tilorn.
- Badass Bookworm:
- Eurych, after he finally gains a level in badassitude in a second novel, and especially the spin-off books, where he travels alone and can no longer rely on Wolfhound to save his neck.
- Tilorn may be a pacifist, but he more or less can look after himself.
- Honomer, for all his unpleasantness, still fits this to a T.
- Badass Pacifist: Tilorn.
- Barbarian Tribe: the Venns to more sophisticated peoples, even if the Venns are a quite cultured folk in their own right.
- The Haryuks are a straight example, even from Wolfhound's, quite liberal, point of view. The are secluded, backwater and most likely inbred.
- The Beastmaster: Wolfhound with dogs, young Wolf with, naturally, wolves, and all other Venns with their clan animals. The "master" part is subverted though, as the Venns regard their clan animals as relatives, not as servants. At one point villains sic a pack of hounds at Wolfhound. He subdues the hounds and muses that he could turn them against their owners, but doesn't do it, as it would devastate the dogs.
- Berserk Button: do not harm Wolfhound's friends, do not hurt or even insult women in his vicinity, period, and, on the other hand, do not accuse him of hurting or abusing women or even imply anything like that - for a Venn that warrants a challenge to a duel. He also has grave issues with whipping people, which stems from his time as a slave.
- The Blacksmith:
- Sharshava the Goldfinch. Also Mezhamir the Bullfinch, Wolfhound's father. Venns in general are known to be great smiths.
- Wolfhound himself, even if he hasn't completed his education, is a decent blacksmith as well.
- Blood Brothers: Wolfhound and Eurych, young Wolf and Vinoir.
- Bodyguard Crush: Princess Elen for Wolfhound. Not reciprocated, though.
- Bookworm: Eurych, Tilorn.
- Born in the Saddle: the Sho-Seetain people.
- Braids of Action: Wolfhound (and all Venn men), a rare male example.
- Cain and Abel: Vinitarius the Maneater and his older brother Vingorrich. Subverted in that Vingorrich survives. Doubly subverted in that he turns out only marginally better than his brother.
- The Cavalry: Vinitar and his warriors in the big battle in the first book, both figuratively and literally.
- Celibate Hero: Wolfhound.
- Chosen One: Wolfhound is a chosen one of the Hound, his ancestor animal, simply because he's the last one of the Grey Hounds clan (although him being noble and virtuous doesn't hurt either).
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Wolfhound. Saving girls from rapists? Check. Freeing prisoners? Check. Helping people reunite with their long-lost relatives? Check. Fighting to death to protect others? Check. Stopping a war between two tribes? Check. Saving a drowning puppy? Check!
- Church Militant: Twins Church most emphatically doesn't condemn violence, which is only kinda logical, given that the Senior was a warrior. They simply believe that it should be measured and just.
- Combat Medic: Mother Kendarat in Peace on the Road.
- Combat Pragmatist: In The Ultimate Stone, Wolfhound has a short inner monologue about how, when fighting a vile and sneaky opponent, it isn't smart to behave like you are an epic hero in a heroic saga fighting another epic hero.
- Cool Sword: Wolfhound's sword Sunflame.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Twins faith, which takes a lot of Christianity's characteristics, both good and bad.
- Cultured Warrior:
- Wolfhound is more the latter than the former, but his love for reading in Books 3 & 4 does wonders to his manner of speech and even thinking.
- Vinitar, an educated and progressive leader and warlord.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Wolfhound has quite a knack for delivering threats, like "You say a single foul word to her and I'll tie a knot on your tongue. Around your neck" or "Tell this disgrace to his kin, this scum-sired bastard, that if he doesn't shut his rotten mouth, he will choke on his own guts". He also makes it clear that he's perfectly capable and willing to go through with them.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: Actually somewhat common among their world's Bantu equivalents, which was noted by Wolfhound in the Peace On The Road, when he commented to himself that one of his companions, Irigoyen, who was a half-Monomatanian, wouldn't even need to have his blond hair dyed to look like a noble young chieftain, only a skin color change.
- Delegation Relay: A rather sinister example. Venns forbid themselves to kill somebody they've talked to (there are exceptions, but the rule is usually upheld). So when Wolfhound starts deliberately talking via a proxy (even something mundane, like "wish him a good morning from me"), it is a good sign to the adresse to either drastically revise their attitude or start running really fast (although the latter is unlikely to help).
- Determinator: Wolfhound, even when he was still a Pup.
- The Don: Sonmor, originally a petty thief in a Narlak city of Condar, who organized the defense of the city during the major war. He was later executed, but his name became a title of the city's (and later whole Narlak and more) underworld leader. The current Sonmor and his heir are more of Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters than anything.
- Eldritch Location: Subverted. The Jewel Mountains are commonly viewed as one, because they're supposedly haunted and are sitting atop the ancient prison of the Dark Gods, who scattered all those gems to attract the greedy people who would eventually free them. But ultimately this view is proven wrong. All the ostensibly supernatural phenomena turn out to be mining legends or have natural explanation, and the "ancient sealed evil" beneath is in fact a humongous icy meteorite. It's still a horrible place, no doubt, but only because its owners made it so.
- Empathic Weapon: Sunflame, who even communicates with Wolfhound in his sleep a couple of times.
- Faceless Mooks: Zhadoba and his men wear masks during raids, but it is for practicality rather than for intimidation.
- Fantastic Drug: Gray Dust. One grain to boost strength and reflexes, six grains for euphory, will eventually turn the user into a vegetable (not literally).
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: All over the place — it's the author's preferred way of worldbuilding, actually.
- The Venns and the Solvenns are Northern and Southern Slavs, respectively.
- The Welch are Celts, complete with battle chariots and East-West division.
- Arrantiad is the Ancient Grome with a hint of Bysantium as a Vestigial Empire thrown in.
- Segvans are Horny Vikings in their finest.
- Monomatana is the better side of the Darkest Africa,note and its most noted peoples, Mibu and Sekhaba, are apparently our world's Bantu equivalent.
- Final Solution:
- Discussed in one of the books. A young member of a mountain tribe boasts aloud about how his tribe will soon conquer and massacre the opposing tribe, including women and children. Wolfhound asks him if he's ever seen a massacred village. Then he describes the one he'd seen in the past. In detail.
- Wolfhound's clan's fate in the backstory is also an example. A Segvan clan is forced out of their island by the encrouching ice and settles near a Venn village of the Grey Hounds clan. But the Segvan leader thinks that the Venns' land is kinda nicer than their plot. His solution? Take them by surprise and massacre the entire village. Wolfhound is the only one left.
- Forced to Watch: Honomer coerces Mother Kendarat to teach kan-keero to his disciples by threatening to burn a man alive in front of her every day.
- Handicapped Badass: Aptahar after the climactic battle of Book 1; Dikerona, the blind knife thrower.
- Hates Small Talk: Wolfhound in particular (partially due to underdeveloped social skills—in the later books he undergoes character growth and noticeably thaws out), and stereotypical Venns in general.
- Healing Hands: Tilorn, and he taught it to Niilith.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Especially when they can turn into one.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted. Wolfhound is fully intent to do just this in the Jewel Mountains - and he does, but the Gods don't let him die as a reward for his epic deed.
- Homage: Some of Shamargan's songs in the fourth book are based on Tarma and Kethry books (the Vows and Honor series) by Mercedes Lackey.
- Human Aliens: It is revealed that the story takes place on another planet (although very similar to Earth), and there is even an actual Earthling present.
- Incurable Cough of Death: One of the dreaded consequences of slaving in the Jewel Mountains. It is even more literal than most examples, since a violent fit of cough is a clear indication to the overseers that the slave can no longer work and must be replaced. Wolfhound had it mostly cured, but it tends to surface up when he's in distress.
- Innocent Blue Eyes: Niilith and Innori.
- Involuntary Shapeshifter: Wolfhound.
- Luchezar, Honomer, many others.
- Jerkass Façade: Wolfhound, not so much on purpose but rather due to considerable lack of communication skills. It Gets Better, though.
- Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Wolfhound has a moment of this in the first book.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Sometimes in Sour Armor.
- Knight Templar: Honomer.
- Last of His Kind: Wolfhound, of his clan.
- Last-Second Chance: Wolfhound offers one to Luchezar.
- Last Stand: Sharshava, Little Doe and others in the end of the final book. Fortunately, Wolfhound comes to their aid in the nick of time.
- Legacy Character:
- Licked by the Dog: Despite Wolfhound looking like a died-in-the-wool cutthroat, a little girl approaches him without fear and takes pity on him, when he's sitting all forlorn and lost in thoughts about his uncertain and unwanted future. She even presents him with a bead - a symbol of betrothal among Venns. This experience, which he compares to "a grumpy old dog being suddenly besieged by silly kittens", is what begins to thaw him out.
- Like Brother and Sister: Sharshava and Little Doe. Wolfhound and Niilith.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Low Fantasy: The action is explicitly set on an another planet with Human Aliens, the world is gritty and realistic, and the explicit magic doesn't play a major role in the series. It's just that some people can do something that has no scientific explanations, and some mystical experiences are probably real. Maybe.
- Mark of the Beast: assassins from a death cult bear a tattoo in the form of an inverted solar symbol, a mark of the Death Goddess Morana.
- Missing Mom: Princess Elen's mother, a Lady of War, was killed in battle before the events of the books.
- A Mother to Her Men: Ertan. Lampshaded by Wolfhound.
- Mother Nature: Walks around as an elderly woman in search of her missing sons.
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Averted. Wolfhound doesn't say a word to The Maneater before killing him. Which is a part of the Venn culture: no Venn will speak directly with someone he or she intends to kill.
- Neighborhood Friendly Gangsters: Sonmor clan, which is a cross between The Mafia and The Yakuza. Their leader befriends the heroes on their journey, and this friendship turns out to be useful a couple of times.
- Never Mess with Granny: Vinitar's grandmother Angran has lived 20 years on a cold, barren desert of an island alone, then took 70 badass Vikings under her wing in a blink of an eye and sailed away to the other side of the world to find her grandson. Don't mess with this granny indeed.
- Note that she was very old even before she was left on the island. By the books time she should be no less than a centenarian.
- Ahem, only not really. She wasn't always alone. She had her Friend, Mother of The Twins, with her.
- Never Learned to Read: Wolfhound in the first book. He hasn't had a chance to learn in his native village, and the mines weren't really the place that promoted the literacy. Mother Kendarat actually offered to teach him during their travels, but he refused as he believed that it wasn't pertaining to his plans. After he got his revenge, on the other hand... Having been ridiculed as a dumb barbarian by Eurych, he asked Niilith to teach him and by the end of the first book he was able to at least parse the Venn/Solvenn language. By the second book, a couple of years later, Wolfhound was already literate in most of the languages he knew, and became a voracious, if still somewhat overawed, reader.
- Noble Savage: Wolfhound's popular image.
- Non-Action Guy: The goldsmith Uloiho
- No Name Given: "Wolfhound" is not his real name, just a nickname given to him in the mines. In fact, his village was attacked on the very night he would receive his true name, so he never got it in the first place.
- Same with Little Doe (Оленюшка), whose personal name we never know, only her clan's name.
- Old Master: Mother Kendarat, a rare female example.
- Omniglot: Because the book's world has a lively international trade and active people migration (to the point that even the shipping lines with regular schedules are starting to appear), it has quite a number of people fluent, or at least getting by, in numerous languages.
- Surprizingly to many, Wolfhound, who is fluent (and, by the second book, literate) in no less than five or six languages, and probably more, most of them picked up in the mines.
- Eurych, being the quintessential Renaissance man — physician, geographer, rhetor, engineer, even a bit of a mage — has little problem with languages as well.
- Once per Episode: Every book starts with the same introduction: "Sunset burnt out, and the forest was basking in pallid green-tinted silver light of the full moon."
- Precocious Crush: Little Doe obviously had an enormous crush on Wolfhound ever since they first met — when she was eleven — and bore the torch to the very end.
- Properly Paranoid: Wolfhound, especially when serving as a bodyguard.
- Proud Warrior Race: Segvans, based on historical Norsemen, and the Sho-Seetain riders, based on ancient Mongols.
- Mergeits in spinoffs, who are a much less charitable look on the same Mongols.
- Punch Clock Villain: Some of the slave drivers in the Jewel Mountains, accentuated by Gvalior. He went to work there just to raise money for the wedding (which are ungodly expensive in his home country), hated both the place and the job, and always tried to be fair to the slaves and protect them.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Due to Venns holding women in great respect, raping a woman is almost unthinkably horrendous for them. Venns' Law prescribes quite a gruesome punishment for it.
- Room101: The Jewel Mountains.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Niilith
- Sapient Pet: Utavegu, the snow-white mountain dogs, are said to be as intelligent as their masters.
- Scars Are Forever: and they don't make Wolfhound prettier.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: If Wolfhound has set on your trail, you might just as well kill yourself to save both of you troubles. It will also be less painful that way.
- Sorcerous Overlord: On a small scale: Mavut has some sorcerous power and a decent amount of faithful followers (whom he sometimes gladly sacrifices for more power).
- So What Do I Do Now?: Wolfhound after he has accomplished his revenge at the very beginning of the Book 1.
- Sinister Minister: Honomer.
- Spiteful Spit: Ultimate stone features an interesting cultural variation. For a member of (this world's) African tribe the worst insult is to spit on the ground near the one he's insulting - as if saying "you're such a scum, I won't even share a spit with you."
- Spot the Imposter
- Imposter Forgot One Detail: an assassin dresses up as a member of a certain nation, but the patterns on his clothers and boots belong to different tribes which alarms Wolfhound.
- Squishy Wizard: Usually inverted: to use magic (or, more likely, psionics) the user has to have good endurance. Especially prominent with Kan-Kendarat, and also with Mavut and his followers: they use martial arts as a path to power. For instance, Mavut himself is a world-renowned spearmaster.
- Stern Teacher: Wolfhound, when teaching kan-keero in the Tin-Vilena fortress.
- Tempting Fate: Subverted. A horrible war that had broken out some time before the events of the books, was dubbed "The Last War", however, unlike World War I, not because they though there wouldn't be any more wars, but because it was so bad everybody thought that the end of the word is near.
- Together in Death: The old Welch couple in Book 1.
- Too Kinky to Torture: According to Wolfhound, the Death Cult assassins are impossible to interrogate - they'd just praise their goddess for suffering and death.
- Tranquil Fury: The Venns believe that a true warrior should never lose his composure, and that falling into rage makes you vulnerable, so Wolfhound's most dangerous mode is this.
- Trial by Combat: Many times, since in-universe it's the most popular way of solving tangled problems.
- Warrior Poet: Deksha, the one-eyed former baker and Galirad's militia commander. Later becomes famous as a poet in-universe.
- Warrior Prince: Vinitar, even though he doesn't have a country: his island is covered by a glacier, his father's atrocities left him without the land on the shore as well, and by the late books he lost his post in the hidden land of Velimor as well. The only things he has for him are his noble birth, his men, and his character. Which is quite enough, actually.
- Winged Humanoids: the Villas in the TV series, for some reason. In the books they are called "the Winged Folk", but actually are wingless: they fly on winged dogs—simurans.
- Worthy Opponent:
- Wolfhound and Vinitar to one another.
- Wolfhound and Tuft the Wolf (Wolf the younger) as well.
- Wolfhound and Sonmor's right hand man Iktash. They don't even fight - they know they're evenly matched just by looking at each other.
- Would Not Hit a Girl: Wolfhound was born in a matriarchal tribe and holds women in great respect. He makes the only exception when he kills a female slave driver-turned-assassin.
- You Killed My Father: Subverted. First time they meet, Vinitar lets Wolfhound go because Honor Commands Him, and on their second encounter... well, let's say that the circumstances absolve him from the duty of revenge.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: By tradition, anybody can challenge a bouncer at an inn to a fistfight (not to the death, of course), and in case of winning gets his job. Wolfhound often uses this method to gain employment.
- Younger Than They Look: Wolfhound looks about 40 because of his beard, scars and half-gray hair. He's actually 23 in the first book and just about 30 in the last one.
- You Shall Not Pass: against the bandits in the climax of the first book.