Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Wolfhound

Go To
The Wolfhound (Russian: "Волкодав") is a series of a Low Fantasy novels by Russian fantasy and Historical Fiction author Maria Semyonova.

Wolfhound is the only one left alive from the Grey Hounds' clan, slaughtered by Vinitarius the Maneater. He survives a life of slavery in the Jewel Mountains and becomes a hardened warrior, intent on getting his revenge.

After traveling to the Maneater’s castle with his faithful Non-Human Sidekick the Earthbound Bat, Wolfhound finally kills the Maneater. 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 he becomes a bodyguard to Princess Elen. Elen's father has the girl betrothed to none other but the Maneater's son Vinitar, and Wolfhound has to escort her to the domains of her husband-to-be. However, other people have other plans for Elen, so the journey will be far from easy.

The second book explores the 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 Hounds (Russian: Волкодав из рода Серых Псов). In 2007, a TV series Young Wolfhound was created, serving as a prequel to the film. The film and the TV series, while having many plot points in common with the books, basically form a separate continuity.

Now has its own character sheet.

Tropes featured in the books:

  • Action Girl:
    • Princess Elen's mother was a fierce warrior and got killed in battle, hence Prince Gluzd absolutely forbidding his daughter to fight.
    • However, Elen wants to learn to defend herself and asks Wolfhound to train her.
  • Action Pet: The Earthbound Bat is fiercely devoted to Wolfhound and won't hesitate to attack his enemies, no matter how imposing they are. After Tilorn heals his wings, the Bat becomes an even stronger case of the trope — indeed, the first time he flies by himself, he does so to protect the Wolfhound.
  • 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.
  • Animal Motifs: Every Venn clan has an animal ancestor (or, at least in one case, an ancestor plant) that had a child with a human woman. This animal is venerated by the clan, and usually the clan has some abilities related to it. For example, Venns of the Wolves; clan have a special howl capable of warding evil, although this ability is almost forgotten now. Wolfhound has more than the tusual share of abilities, because he's the Last of His Kind and a Chosen One.
  • Appropriated Appelation: Having never received a proper name, Wolfhound goes by as Pup and later Dog in the slave mines. After he challenges and kills an overseer called Wolf, he is 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 — but the combination of his fighting experience and supernatural reading of his enemies' intentions allows him to correctly predict where the 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.
  • Barbarian Tribe:
    • The Venns look like this to the more sophisticated peoples, however, they 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 the other Venns with their clan animals. The "master" part is zig-zagged, 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 people being whipped, which stems from his time as a slave.
  • The Blacksmith:
    • Wolfhound himself, even if he hasn't completed his education, is a decent blacksmith as well.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Princess Elen develops a crush on Wolfhound who serves as her bodyguard. After a few moments of Ship Tease (for example, he does muse that perhaps, someday people would remember a prince who used to be a simple bodyguard), it is made clear he doesn't reciprocate.
  • Celibate Hero: Wolfhound comes across many beautiful girls, whom he often has to rescue from certain death, but he stays away from romance. He is briefly attracted to Niilith but soon realizes she is falling for Tilorn, and later he vaguely dreams about marrying Elen, but it goes no further. It helps that that starting from early in the first book, he is honor-bound to be loyal to Little Doe unless she marries someone else, and since she is just ten at that point, it results in several years of Jail Bait Wait — he and Little Doe are only reunited on the last pages of the last book chronologically.
  • 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: The Twins' Church most emphatically doesn't condemn violence, which is only logical, given that the Senior was a warrior. They simply believe that it should be measured and just.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Wolfhound has an honor code that he doesn't forget even when facing the Maneater — namely, don't strike from the back and don't talk to the one you want to kill — but other than that, he is a no-nonsense pragmatist when it comes to fighting. In The Ultimate Stone, he 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, Clear Water: In The Ultimate Stone, set during the Wolfhound's Jewel Mountains time, a group of kinda runaway slaves (it's a long story) find the body of a boy miner, for decades a subject of the Urban Legend, on an island in a cave lake, surrounded by the incredibly clear, azure and glowing water, perfectly preserved as if he's actually alive. It is heavily implied that the lake is highly radioactive, and the blue light is a Cherenkov radiation.
  • 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.
  • 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 encroaching 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 Bystander: Very emphatically defied by Wolfhound. As a Consummate Professional, it frustrates him is to no end when his wards start trying to help him protect them, especially when they can barely tell the working end of a spear from the shaft. Contrasted by Sighina who, despite being ostensibly loony, when things get tense, instantly drops to the floor and sneaks under a table, i.e. exactly what he expects a civilian to do.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted. Wolfhound is fully intending 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.
  • Incest Standards Are Relative: In one of the books, a girl doesn't want the guy chosen for her as a husband. He, thankfully, isn't so keen on the idea either. So the two publicly perform a form of food sharing which, in their society, makes them officially siblings.
  • 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.
  • Legacy Character:
  • Licked by the Dog: Despite Wolfhound looking like a dyed-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 Vennsnote . This experience, which he compares to "a grumpy old dog being suddenly besieged by silly puppies", is what begins to thaw him out.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Sharshava and Little Doe. Wolfhound and Niilith.
  • 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.
  • Out of Character Is Serious Business: If Wolfhound is willing to kill a woman, you can be sure the woman in question is beyond monstrous.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: The 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.
  • No Social Skills: Wolfhound seems like a Jerkass not so much on purpose but rather due to considerable lack of communication skills. It gets better, though. Although even from the start it's downplayed if not subverted outright. Wolfhound can be polite, gentle, deferrent and even occasionally diplomatic - it's eloquence he struggles with.
  • 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.
  • 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 has an enormous crush on Wolfhound ever since they first meet — when she is ten — and bears the torch to the very end.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Settle for Sibling: In a rare variation, the trope is invoked as an honor. After Little Hedgehog is killed defending Little Starling from a rabid wolf, the girl ends up marrying his younger brother, since the Starlings see the Hedgehogs' bravery.
  • 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: The 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 clothes 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.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: 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 addresse to either drastically revise their attitude or start running really fast (although the latter is unlikely to help).
  • 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 world 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.