JUST FINISHED: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf

 AUTHOR: Victor Pelevin

TITLE: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf AUTHOR: Victor Pelevin

There are a lot of books about Werewolves, however Victor Pelevin’s novel isn’t really one of them.  There is a werewolf in the book, actually a few but the story spends most of its time focusing on the life and times of a werefox, and probably with good reason, as a werefox is the main character and the entire story is shown through her eyes.  I also am not quite sure how sacred of a book  it is.  The title has to refer to the book one is reading as it begins by telling you that you are reading a literary version of found footage.  However aside from explaining to you the main character’s theory its not very religious or spiritual.  Instead its closer to a love story than anything.

The book itself takes place mostly in a near-modern Moscow, with a feeling of the late 90’s firmly in place.  It is heavy on the politics of Russia at the turn of the century, heavily mixed with Chinese culture whether on accidental or the author’s intention.  There is also heavy emphasis on entertainment and pop culture that really gives the book a time and place.  All of these elements give the book’s setting a feeling of both familiar and foreign at the same time.

But  will you enjoy your time in Hu-Li’s seedy Moscow, with blood, sex, fur and claws?  Well its definitely a possibility, of course you could also hate it.  Yeah its really one of those type of stories.  But werefoxes are known for their casting of illusions, so its right on point.  But whether its something up your alley you will need to read on to find out.

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, is about and told through the eyes of Hu-Li, an immortal creature called a werefox.  Now I am quite sure unless you’ve been living under a rock that you know what a ‘werefox’ is.  But the creature Hu-Li and her sisters are to be, are not anything like the kitsune, or shape changing foxy monsters I’m sure most of us visualize.  But they do have tails, so you are not completely wrong.

Fortunately the first few chapters go about telling us exactly what Pelevin’s werefoxes are.  He explains how their Illusionary powers work, why they live forever, and also  though they look like women, they aren’t really– which I think can explain why Hu-li’s narrative isn’t all that convincing as a female . Unfortunately he doesn’t his explainations even In the slightest and instead tends to pepper in more of the way these creatures throughout most of the novel.  And though it is all very interesting, the narrative has a tenacity to explain things before showing them, only to allow the reader to get a double dose of everything– and I couldn’t help but wonder if the book should have had spoiler warnings for itself.  Due to the oversaturation of cut into narrative, I really felt the narrative tends to suffer from the explanations as it slows down the pace of the novel.  But it is interesting enough that it shouldn’t cause you to stop reading.  In my own opinion the backgrounds and history were a lot more interesting than the story going further.

And that story transformed so quickly into the ‘Romance’ I spoke of, that I didn’t realize that all this build up was for that very purpose. And that’s really the problem, with the novel’s story, it doesn’t overly seem purposeful.   Before Hu-Li meets her Werewolf, Sasha I was confused as to what the story’s premise really was.  Even after she meets him and their affair begins with more information about Werefoxes and now how werewolves function as well, I was still waiting for… well anything.

Instead we find ourselves with a story taken over by a general in a military force who our eyes and ears has fallen in love with.  That strong and smart lead character is reverted into a woman who can’t do anything for herself.  Even her werefox powers seem to pale in comparison to the much more strong and fierce werewolf.  And the middle half of the book seems to be sexual power fantasy of the writer as he allows his male character to take full advantage of his beautiful and now depowered  central character.  Yet I was still convinced that this ‘Twilight’ style  romance had something else going for it.  There was another piece of this that would make everything worth it.  Unfortunately that wasn’t to come.

Instead our plot twist is Sasha is getting weaker all of the sudden, and he needs to find himself and gather his strength to rise back up better than he was before.  And of course as he goes on this journey he leaves our werefox in the dust with tears and a broken heart.   We see sometime later that he has indeed become something stronger, A ‘Super werewolf’ and leading his military force once more, with a new even stronger commitment.

Now in all fairness I don’t normally read the sort of books, ‘The Sacred Book of the Werewolf’ is.  Its more in line with 50 Shades of Gray or a Anita Blake type of book.  And I will say if I had known going into this novel I probably wouldn’t have ever picked it up to begin with.   The book comes across in the summaries in the back of the book, and my exposure to it on a book shelf to be a very different kind of book.  And I will admit its sort of like when you look at food expecting candy and getting a vegetable.

Of course with that being said, I cannot say that ‘The Sacred Book of the Werewolf’ is a horrible book — and no one should ever read it.  If that was the case, I’d not bother to give my thoughts on it at all. There is some interesting ideas and work to be had by reading it for sure.  Specifically I loved Pelevin’s Moscow– which feels modern and dated all at the same time like a James Bond type of setting.  It has the flavours of a new Russia baked into the right winged communist undercurrent that the entire society of Russia is intertwined with.

I also liked some of the concepts regarding the werecreatures.  Though they were completely mind blowing brilliant, there are definitely a lot of cool ideas explored regarding how shape changers work.  The way their powers are connected, and the histories they share.

Over all I will say there is good bits in this novel even if this novel isn’t for you.  I’m glad I read it, if just to experience something I don’t all that often.  If your into alternative takes on folklore, like current day Russia, or a fan of Twillight, Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse, or Shades of Gray I’d definitely say give this book a go.  But if you are looking for a good Werewolf book, you won’t find it here.

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