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: First Chosen by M. Todd Gallowglas

I read First Chosen as a Smashwords ePub. The book is available from Smashwords and Kindle.

First Chosen, the beginning installment of the ‘Tears of Rage’ series, is quite an interesting read. We follow Julianna, a young woman with a tragic past who is destined for greatness in a rather unique Celtic-inspired fantasy world.

The story really begins on her twenty-first birthday, when unfortunate events conspire to lead her into a horrible situation and really kick off the story. In order to avoid spoilers I won’t go into what happens, but destiny certainly gets the better of her in this one.

The opening of the novel, which reads somewhere halfway between a prologue and a Part One, could use refinement. As it is, we’re given background on our character’s childhood which could have been interspersed throughout the narrative, at the same time as we’re being bombarded with names and places and descriptions of things that make little to no sense because they’re delivered in such a rapid-fire manner. While I’m not a huge fan of the flashback, I think it could have been used to give us this information in a way that did not feel so overwhelming.

That said, however, once the story begins in earnest, it truly begins, and does not let go until we reach the end of this chapter, which I hope will be continued soon. The characters are well-drawn and the world is truly fascinating, with its talk of gods and miracles. It is an unconventional design for a fantasy novel, and it works very much to the author’s advantage. We get several POV characters to give us different angles on the world, and none of them seem superfluous.

If I’m not too much mistaken, I would wager that George R.R. Martin is one of Mr. Gallowglas’ inspirations for this particular project. The way certain characters are represented and the fact that we see all sides of the conflict with certain POVs being entirely irredeemable as people is what lends me that feeling. Gallowglas’ prose is starker (if you’ll forgive the pun) than Martin’s, however, and the story moves along at a significantly faster pace, avoiding getting bogged down in the repetition and pointlessness of existence that Martin sometimes succumbs to. This, of course, means a shorter story overall, and First Chosen clocks in at only about 60,000 words – though this is not at all a problem, simply an observation.

First Chosen is a strong entry into the indie fantasy market, helped significantly by its fascinating world and genuinely interesting characters. I give it a strong recommendation – though should you find yourself getting bogged down in the first few pages, I suggest pushing through it and letting the overwhelming backstory go by, using it as a reference later if you require it. Giving up would cause you to miss a truly engaging dark fantasy tale.

I wish Mr. Gallowglas all the best with his continued writing efforts, and I am genuinely looking forward to the next installment.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.