Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlín R. Kiernan

16136945This book… This book is… I don’t know. It’s so many things.

I haven’t seen a book run around, tagging so many horror-centric clichés this much, and yet still manage to stay true to itself and remain steadfastly interesting at the same time.

Like the title suggests, this is a book about Werewolves. But that’s being too specific and under-selling it a ton. It’s about a lot more than just Werewolves – which is something I never thought I’d actually write, EVER. Just Werewolves? Who says that? Nobody sane, anyways.

What this book is really about is faith, belonging, and a whole helluva lot of fire – both in its metaphoric and in physical guise. And hot damn, if it doesn’t cause a stirring in your hero-loving heart, I don’t know what will. (see what I did there? A helluva lot of fire? Hot Damn? Eh? Eh?)

Personally, this one felt like Kiernan was channeling a little bit of my beloved Brite with the creation of a character like Dancy, but I could be completely off base with that. This is my first actual experience with the acclaimed author’s writing, but it definitely won’t be the last.

Any reader in their right mind is liable to be drawn to this story. I mean, here… take a look at the synopsis:

Dancy Flammarion may look like a frail teenage girl, but her journey through the swamps and byways of the American South brings her into battle with werewolves, monsters, and grotesque secrets, armed only with a knife and a mission to destroy the deadly creatures that lurk in the shadows.

– from DarkHorse.com

Side note: I love spell-check. How many mistakes were in that paragraph, right there? You’ll never know. HA! Ugh.

With Alabaster: Wolves, Kiernan breathes a new sort of life into Dancy, a character from the world of her own short stories, and plants her firmly in the land of pictures and colour, much to this comic lover’s delight. Sometimes you just need to see the story instead of read it. And honestly, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately – so this was a welcome experience.

The overall dynamic between all of the characters from the get-go is incredible. The main character, Dancy, sits in her own headspace, relives her own wounded past, and throws threatening barbs at her villainous counterpart just as easily as she trades sarcastic remarks with a very cleverly crafted and simply loveable new animal friend/feathered annoyance. It’s a testament to the author’s ability to set such powerful scenes and have them also be so strongly driven by rich dialogue.

I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this tale could surely exist as either a graphic novel or a short story – Kiernan is truly able to transcend both of the mediums involved.

The art and colouring involved in Wolves are a thing of beauty, as well. Not only do they marry the skillfully crafted words to the scenes so well, but they also help create something of a relaxed feel to what should really be a more urgent story. It’s hard to think about a werewolf story being anything even remotely resembling “relaxed”, but that’s exactly how this one feels. From the introductory few pages, all the way to the climactic scenes of each issue, the pace is set wonderfully, and never urges the reader to hurry along in order to reach a “money-shot”, to use the term loosely.

Kiernan, Lieber and Rosenberg are masterful at allowing the reader to believe they’re in control, when in fact they’re being drawn from panel to panel hand-in-hand the whole way through a wonderland of terror, mystery, and modern, horror-centric fairytales.

Alabaster: Wolves is available at Dark Horse and on Amazon.com.

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