A Companion to Wolves - Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear Imagine a world very alike to old Iceland, populated with trolls and wyvern snakes, giant fighting wolves and humans who resemble the vikings of old. There are Earls, and villagers, and there are the wolfcarls, warriors who are mythically bonded to giant wolves. They defend the humans against the trolls, beings so powerful only the united forces of men and wolves can defeat them. Njall, eldest son of an earl, is drawn to the wolves, but he is also his father's heir. When the wolfjarl, the head of the wolfcarls, claims him as part of the thrall, Njall's father objects. But Njall wants to go. So he bonds with his wolf sister, Viradechtis, and becomes Isolfr. But there's the catch to being a wolfcarl: there are only male humans, but some of them are bonded to female wolves. And when the wolves mate, the humans do also, making Isolfr the one who will be taken by the human brothers of the male wolves who mate with his wolf sister. Isolfr almost breaks up with the necessity to give himself to other men. But then the trolls start to come, and the whole world as Isolfr knows it threatens to be destroyed. Isolfr realizes his place in the world and his worthiness as a man has nothing to do with whom he surrenders to, but everything with the reasons why he does it. This book was different for many reasons, and I can see why some may find it difficult. Particularly the sex might be bothering people. Without being outrightly raped, Isolfr isn't entirely consensual when it comes to having sex with other men. But the world he lives in is violent and cruel, not only to Isolfr, but in general, and the forced matings fit the setting. The way Isolfr grows into his role and finds his place in this very different and complicated world is part of the magic of this book. Not one single time did Isolfr act out of character; he was entirely plausible and so were the other men - and the wolves who are personalities in their own rights. Significant for the author's skills, the wolves are just "human" enough to make it plausible for them to bond with men, but they are still animals. No pathetic fallacy, the wolves are cruel and single minded and living in the moment like true animals. The worldbuilding was fantastic, totally transporting the reader into it. The story itself, with the deadly threat of the trolls forging an unlikely alliance out of men, wolves and mountain smiths (elf-like creatures of great power), was solid, well crafted fantasy, nothing new but original enough to be exciting. There were some minor issues, of course. For once, the names appeared totally random. Also, most of them suddenly changed after one third of the book; there were a lot of names. The name and character list on the first page was actually very necessary. Then, there was this fake "nordic" language which lead to tongue twisting word monsters like wolfmaeghtthing. Not really necessary, some readers might find this disturbing (I didn't mind, but I'm a linguist, so my opinion in this doesn't exactly count)Third, the story felt open ended, particularly on Isolfr's part. Then again, maybe he can't entirely find his peace with his place in life. It was still satisfying to see both Isolfr and Viradechtis mated in the end. This one is a favourite, a great, suspenseful book, recommended for everyone who loves good, well - crafted fantasy with character growth and original creatures and doesn't mind non-consensual man-on-man sex. Updated review at www.reviewsbyjessewave.com