Mar 3, 2013

Wolf Tower

by Tanith Lee

I picked up this book once just browsing at the library (yes, I browse J Fiction sometimes) and found it quite a puzzle. It starts off with a likely-enough heroine, Claidi, describing her life in a journal. She serves a petty, cruel princess in a palace surrounded by a jungle maze and then a wasteland. The inhabitants are all fearful of the world outside and Claidi pretty much despises them all. When a handsome man crashes his hot-air balloon into the tower and is imprisoned, Claidi is instantly smitten with him, helps him escape and runs off with him into the wide world. There follows a series of adventures as she travels with him through several different towns. Each seems to have its own peculiar customs, sealed off from the world around. In the first, the people talk to and live communally with sheep. In the next, the people worship birds and try to offer Claidi as a sacrifice. They run into a troop of bandits, whose leader falls in love with Claidi but she follows the balloon-man onward due to an oddly blind sense of loyalty, even though he doesn't really treat her very well. Later they end up at a city where the ruling faction uses nonsensical games of chance to make the laws, and here Claidi finally does something worthwhile and tries to destroy their lawmaking- methods. She sees how it hurts the people.

But for most of the book I found her hard to admire. Claidi is so utterly ignorant, having been shut up in the palace all of her life, that she can't make sense of what she sees and frequently misjudges people. Usually I find that when an ignorant protagonist is describing new things, there's enough description that the reader can understand clearly what it is, even if the protagonist herself doesn't. But in this case I was often confused. Claidi makes a lot of awful decisions, and it turns out that people she trusts or even falls in love with prove themselves to be unpleasant and deceitful, while the ones she is wary of are the opposite- like the so-called bandits. Turns out they were really travelling traders.

Overall it was kind of a difficult book to read. The characters are written unevenly, and the voice of Claidi in her apparent journal entries was uneven as well. She uses lots of modern slang and expressions which feel out of place in the setting of the story. The adventures were by turns confusing or just boring. The heroine's actions and choices were often frustrating to this reader. Despite all that, I found the curious customs of the various towns so unique, imaginative and intriguing (even though they were often poorly described) that I kept reading just to see what new thing the author would come up with next.

Have any of you read this book? what did you think of it?

Rating: 2/5 ........ 240 pages, 1998


  1. I haven't read this, but I have tried to read it many a time. I browse J fiction sometimes too -- not nearly as often as I'd like to, because there are SO MANY CHILDREN using my library all the time, and that is awesome but makes me feel guilty for stealing their books. :p But yeah, I used to try to read Tanith Lee a lot when I was younger, because the plots always looked very "me", and I never cared for/finished any of them. :/

  2. Well, it's nice to have my opinion validated. I only tried two of hers, and then gave up.


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