Published: March 1st 2016 by Text Publishing
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
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As night fell, something stirred the darkness. Flashes of crimson uniform cut the smothering black of the woods as soldiers tore over the dead leaf matter, hacking their way through the web of forest.
The prisoner ran.
When Lowell Sencha finds the strange girl called Lycaea lying as if dead on the riverbank, he is startled to find that she is like them: waer. Human, but able to assume the form of a wolf.
Then soldiers descend on the village with fire and sword, searching for her. Lowell and Lycaea are among the few who escape.
Now they must find their way to the city of Luthan. Their mission is to bring down Daeman Leldh, the damaged tyrant whose fantasies of blood purity threaten them all. And they will need help that only Lycaea's former comrades in Luthan can give.
If she can persuade them not to kill her.
Waer by Meg Caddy is an accomplished début that takes readers into a fantasy land where legends roam alongside humans and werewolves. A rarity of its kind – a standalone – Waer is an great example of a well-crafted YA fantasy.
All of Caddy’s characters, even the most minor ones, have a lot of depth to them. One gets the sense that they all have fully fleshed out histories and stories in the author’s mind – we just haven’t been given the opportunity to see them. They feel real, especially Lowell and Lycaea. Waer begins with Lowell, who finds a girl washed upon the riverbank near his idyllic home in the Gwydhan Valley. Like him, she’s a waer, but unlike him, she was forcibly turned during at the hands of Daeman Leldh.
The book is told with alternate points of view, switching between protagonists as necessary. Admittedly, there’s very little to distinguish Lowell’s chapters from Lycaea’s except for the text at the beginning. For the first three pages, I didn’t even realise that Lowell is a boy (but that tells you more about me than the author or the story). They’re great characters and I enjoyed their journey from broken and hurt individuals to a force to be reckoned with. One of the things I loved is that this isn’t a story about werewolves. Ultimately, it’s a story about people who happen to be werewolves. I also liked that both Lowell and Lycaea were waers, making them more equal than most couples in YA fantasy or paranormal stories.
The world-building in Waer is great. Gwydhan Valley, Caerwyn and Luthan brought to life vividly, and Oster obviously has a rich and complex history. Reading this book feels like stepping into a fully formed world. Although Lowell and Lycaea’s story seems to have ended, I would love to read more stories set in Oster!
Having been shortlisted for the Text Prize, Waer leans a bit more towards literary fiction than the YA I usually read. The descriptions are lush and the prose is gorgeous! It’d be worth a read just for that alone, but the plot is amazing as well. There are lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing and Caddy pulls no punches in this story. However, I found the absolute lack of contractions, even in speech, jarring. It took me a while to get used to it. The only thing that stops Waer from being a five-star read is that I felt I was always kept at a distance from story. There was something about it – perhaps the writing style – that prevented me from fully immersing myself in the world or its characters. That’s not to say that it wasn’t interesting. It was! I think this is a very personal reaction and I don’t expect that it will be true for every reader.
If it isn’t already, I strongly urge you to stick Waer on your TBR. I think it will be a hit with readers who are looking for a YA fantasy with a twist. Waer does for werewolves what The Rephaim did for angels. And there’s no higher praise I can give.