Maniye’s father may be Akrit, the chieftain of the Stone River clan, but Maniye is the only child and therein lies the first of her problems. So far Akrit has not been able to have any more children from his selection of wives in order to produce the much sought after male heir. The second problem is that Maniye’s mother was not from a wolf clan, like Maniye’s father, but a tiger clan. In a world where people can shift into animal form this has created a terrible problem for Maniye who can shift from tiger to wolf and yet cannot give allegiance to either. This constant tug of war leaves her in physical and emotional turmoil.
After an old priest, who can shift into snake form, is captured by Maniye’s clan, things come to a head. So along with the priest, Maniye makes a break for freedom and the terrible, oppressive future her father has carved out for her.
The Tiger and the Wolf could be said to contain two stories that eventually converge. One the one hand there is a party of travelers from the south, the leader of which is hoping to forge alliances with tribes in the north on behalf of his father. The other story concentrates on Maniye, and it is this strand of the story I found the most compelling. This is because of the vivid descriptions of Maniye’s flight into the wilderness from the safety of her tribe’s village, her constant striving to not only survive, but find her place in the world and peace with her two waring natures. The developing storyline that explores the ongoing interactions between Maniye and the tribesman, Blood Axe, who has been sent to hunt her down and bring her back also gives an added frisson to how she is coping out in a brutal world with no protector and someone relentlessly chivvying her. That Blood Axe killed Maniye’s mother provides an intriguing back story and dynamic to the developing and complicated relationship between hunter (Blood Axe) and the hunted (Maniye).
If the book had just been about Maniye’s story it would still have been absorbing, because it is about so much more than a coming of age and therefore makes this part of the narrative a very powerful story.
Of the travelers from the south negotiating their way through often hostile land and sometimes fighting to defeat those seeking to repel strangers from their territory, there are some effective fight scenes, particularly because this is a world where people can shift shape when necessary to gain a strategic advantage. But I did not feel as emotionally invested in these characters as I did in those who were primarily in Maniye’s narrative. Because of this I found myself impatient to get back to finding out how she was getting on.
At just over 600 pages, this is a large tome. It does take a skilled writer with a considerable understanding of how to sustain a reader’s attention over such the extended period. As an author of novels with a similar word count to The Tiger and the Wolf, Adrian Tchaikovsky knows a thing or two about epics. He appreciates how build and release the tension throughout the narrative, by charting the sometimes subtle shifts in loyalties and allegiances, as well as suggesting possibilities to intrigue the reader, urging them on with the need to find out how the plot unfolds. The art of writing an epic is about a constant change of focus and within the vast canvas of this book are episodes, either in battles or in developing relationships that are written both with a broad brush but also on an intimate scale. This constant building and releasing of tension and shift in focus adds variety and subtle nuances to the overall story arc to create a rich canvas of imagination as well as good immersion into this complex, yet brutal wilderness of a world.
Given the dramatic conclusion of the book it will be interesting to see where the storyline goes after this.
The Tiger and The Wolf was courtesy of Pan Macmillan via NetGalley