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Literature / The Wolf Sisters

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A Historical Fiction/fantasy novel by Susan Price.
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The novel, set in Anglo-Saxon Britain, follows the story of Kenelm Atheling, one of the "youngest and least important" nephews of King Adhelm Guthlac. As such, he is a direct descendant of Woden, King of the Gods. He wants nothing more than to become a warrior. But fate, and Guthlac's orders, have made this impossible; rather than being trained to fight, he is gifted to a monastery as a child to be his uncle's representative among the Christian community.

As a young man, Kenelm's prayers to return to the court are seemingly answered. Guthlac's men have fallen prey to the Sickness, and foreigners are coming to attack the kingdom. Kenelm's mission, as the only man of royal blood still able to do so, is to go into the forest and seek help from three mysterious Wood People - the Wolf-Sisters.

Kenelm's loyalties are soon torn - if he does not return to the monastery he will have failed his duty to his uncle and dishonoured himself. And yet, having seen the intoxicating freedom of the Wolf-Sisters, he cannot bear to go back.

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Tropes included in The Wolf-Sisters are:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Kenelm. Justified, as he's spent all his adolescence in a sexually repressed monastery.
  • Body Horror: averted entirely with the Wolf-Sisters; inverted with Kenelm. His own transformation is described as being exhilarating.
  • Break the Haughty: the Abbess. And the Abbot. And Adhelm Guthlac.
  • The Caligula: Adhelm Guthlac; though he's not totally insane he does lose his rag very easily. Having said that, swearing vengeance on supernatural beings that are descended from the gods and have the power to transform into wild beasts is not usually considered a smart move.
  • Corrupt Church: in spades, most predominantly with the Christians; not a single one is portrayed as nice, and the Big Bad of the whole novel is arguably the Abbess, an obsessive Church Militant who doesn't mind stabbing people to death just because they don't share her religious beliefs. The other Christians just accept this. All in a day's work. That said, Adhelm Guthlac's court with their Norse beliefs hardly come out looking squeaky-clean, and Adhelm Guthlac himself constantly reminds everyone that he's a descendant of Woden in a very Caligula-esque sort of way.
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  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: the Sickness.
  • Fanservice: if you were to add up the amount of times Price draws attention to the Wolf-Sisters' breasts, you would practically need a calculator. And the fact that they're constantly naked, though this is inverted during the feast scene as the onlookers aren't turned on, they're scared shitless.
  • Nightmare Fuel: the two scenes where the Wolf-Sisters start tearing humans to shreds.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Kenelm seeing the Wolf-Sisters' attack on the foreigners definitely qualifies, as he is hallucinating.
  • Only Sane Man: Kenelm when he's trying to talk the Abbess out of going into the woods to convert the Wolf-Sisters. Any fool can see that this is a very bad idea, to the point of being overwhelming Pride or being a Death Seeker. Egwin is in almost exactly the same situation trying to deal with Adhelm Guthlac during the feast scene. See the entry for The Caligula above.In fact, Egwin in general.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: the Wolf-Sisters' defining power is to shape-shift into wolves, though they can do so at will. The full moon doesn't affect their transformation.
  • Pride Before a Fall: the Abbess mainly, but also Adhelm Guthlac in the end.
  • Primal Fear: so much. So, so much.
  • Royal Brat: you get the feeling that Adhelm Guthlac was one of these in his youth. Hell, he still is one.
  • Scary Teeth: Price constantly describes the Wolf-Sisters' teeth as sharp, even when they're in human form.
  • Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: unlike plenty of horror-movie werewolves, the Sisters are Body Type 6.
  • Tear Jerker: Gifu dying, and Kenelm realising that he can never belong anywhere after what he's done.
    Kenelm: Kenelm walked on and that brought him here. And he brings you the news.
    Aelfric: For that we thank him. What will he do now? Where will he go?
    Kenelm: He thought to stay here.
    Aelfric: We don't want you here.
    Kenelm: Is there anywhere, do you think, where he would be welcome?
    Aelfric: No. Nowhere.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Kenelm fantasises about doing this to the Abbess at one point.

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