Review: Once We Were Like Wolves by M. Todd Gallowglas

Once We Were Like Wolves

(Format Note: I read Once We Were Like Wolves via the Amazon Kindle Select Library, as I am an Amazon Prime member.)

Once We Were Like Wolves is the second book in the Tears of Rage series (see my review of First Chosen here).

Mr. Gallowglas turns everything up a notch in this second entry to his Celtic-feeling fantasy series. The world he has created is rich and vibrant, featuring: tricky gods, warring factions who all increasingly hate one another, ancient history that feels alive, and truly engaging characters that draw you straight into his narrative without letting go until the end.

Being that I am currently writing a ‘Book 2’ of my own, I entirely understand the difficulty involved in that process. One has to pull threads through from the first entry, while raising the stakes and expanding the scope but without sacrificing the feeling that made the first one connect with readers. It’s not just about continuing the narrative, it’s about extending the feelings you forged in Book 1 while simultaneously making everything grander.

I believe that Mr. Gallowglas succeeded on every point. We see our main characters begin to grow into the roles they have been forced into, the story introduces new twists and turns driving us toward the final conclusion while being immersed in frenetic action. Most of the second half of the book is a rocket-powered ride of genuinely enjoyable action, filled with imagery that’s still stuck in my head, slowing down just barely enough so that you don’t break your neck when you arrive at the end.

M. Todd Gallowglas is a writer to watch. Speaking as an author myself, his rich storytelling, excellent characterization and frankly amazing world-building makes him the kind of author that I would love to have a chance to collaborate with.

So, the final score for Once We Were Like Wolves:

For fantastic world-building, an engaging story, haunting imagery and excellent characterization. Also, for addressing (whether purposefully or not) my major issues with Book 1 and providing a story that gets going from Page 1. This is well-worth the read and you would be missing out if you didn’t.

Review: Halloween Jack & The Devil’s Gate by M. Todd Gallowglas (@MGallowglas)

(Note: I read HJ&TDG via the Amazon Prime KDP Select lending option. My reading device was a combination of Kindle for PC and Kindle for Android.)

To be up front, I read Halloween Jack because I am a huge fan of Gallowglas’ First Chosen, which incidentally was named one of my Top 5 Books of 2011. I am also what you might call ‘friendly’ with the author on Twitter, who’s a great guy and I always love to read his tweets.

Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate is, at its heart, a folk tale. It stirs up feelings of stories featuring other characters named Jack – like Jack & The Beanstalk, for example. This is a story of whimsy and hearkens back to an age of storytelling when history was a murky blur and legends ruled and had power.

In fact, the power of myth, story and legend is one of the central themes in HJ&tDG. The mythical figure Jack o’ the Lantern (who keeps the demons away from Earth, chasing them back into Hell after they are allowed to come out on Halloween) loses his power, and it’s up to his distant descendants to do something about it.

The characters are larger-than-life, as they are in any good folk tale. This tale of the triumph of human ingenuity over adversity is a rollicking good read from beginning to end. John and Moira are heroes you can really root for, and the supporting cast (including my favorite side character, the ogre named Mickey) lends great color to the story.

The story has a steampunk-esque feel to it – the Devil’s minions use something called Steam Soldiers as part of their world-conquering army, which seem to be Victorian-esque robots, though they are never described in great detail. There is a gas-lantern feeling about the whole story, which covers locations such as Boston, rural Ireland, London and even ranges all the way out to Texas. A folk tale with globe-trotting heroes is exactly what this story sets out to be, and it accomplishes that task with panache and daring.

I do have to deduct minor points for a few technical issues – namely, editing ones. More than once, there is a homonym confusion. The most prevalent one is “heals” to refer to the back of one’s feet – the correct word is, of course, “heels”. There was one other homonym confusion I noticed which I do not now remember.

On the more technical side, I only encountered one actual typo, and for a ~40,000 word work, that’s excellent.

One of the joys of indie publishing is that all of these things could easily be fixed with a quick edit and re-upload to the sites, and nothing is committed to a massive print run where these minor mistakes would be set upon parchment in indelible ink.

With that, I award the final score for Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate:

For a great and engaging folk-tale about the terrors of Halloween and the triumph of human ingenuity, marred only by a few minor editing mistakes, I award 4 1/2 stars.

Note: Because the story itself is fantastic and editing errors can be easily fixed, in places which do not allow half-star reviews, I will be awarding 5 stars.

Thanks once again to Mr. Gallowglas for a great story; I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in his Tears of Rage series!