Meet Russian-born James Bond (or rather his father of sorts) who is also a kind of super-werewolf spy.
Michael Gallatin (a.k.a Mihail Gallatinov), a British master spy during World War II has to come out of his glorious retirement in a remote Wales for one last mission: to stop a secret Nazi operation called Iron Fist. Can Michael do it and survive? Can it be done by anybody else? Can he retain his humanity while fighting for his life?
Wolf’s Hour is narrated in the third person limited voice and it tells two parallel stories: one of Michael Gallatin in World War II and another of young Mikhail Gallatinov, a Russian boy who becomes a werewolf when his family is murdered by the Bolshevics. While both branches of the story had a good amount of action, I was far more interested in the Mikhail storyline because it was far more nuanced and complex; the WWII storyline was too Bond-like, especially when it came to all these impossible missions and pretty ladies swooning at the mere sight of our manly man…er…wolf.
I like dynamic characters and Michael was nothing but dynamic although, I admit, his spy persona was definitely less interesting (read:more schematic and predictable) than his werewolf persona. I especially enjoyed one quote, recurring throughout the novel:
“He slept, and dreamed of a wolf who dreamed he was a man who dreamed he was a wolf who dreamed.”
Pretty complex for a bit cartoonish hero, don’t you think?
Apart from that I liked some of secondary characters, especially the poor Mouse (or Mausenfeld, a German cook who deserted his unit and was hiding, shell-shocked, in Paris, stealing and robbing people in order to survive). Some lines and scenes also made me laugh out loud (not a mean feat for an action-packed novel from time to time bordering pulp fiction) – let me quote one of them.
Michael is recuperating after one of his many deadly stunts. Chesna, the lady number three allotted to help him wading through the Nazi Germany and stealing their secrets, sniffs something fishy when she checks up on him at night (no, it wasn’t what you think, it was pure concern of course ;p ) and finds his bed empty and the window- open.
“Michael, where have you been?”
“Just out. Walking. I didn’t want to use the front door. I thought I might wake everybody in the hou—”
“It’s past three in the morning,” Chesna interrupted. “Why are you naked?”
“I never wear clothes past midnight. It’s against my religion.”
It is, in fact, a classic example showing that, basically, I can forgive a book a lot if its characters have a sense of humour – I suppose if Michael was one of those stiff-upper-lip-deadly-serious types the whole story wouldn’t work for me half that well.
As I’ve already mentioned the forgiveness…I am sorry to say McCammon completely failed his female characters. All of them seemed to be clones of the biggest cliché of all the clichés also known as the Bond girlfriend – a woman who exists just because she is in love with the main character and is dispatched as soon as the author/the director finds an upgraded version. Even my darling ‘werewolfettes’ in the Russian Pack ( Renati and Alexa) tended to be more bark than bite (mind you one of them still had more character and stamina that all beautiful ladies hanging on the neck of Michael later). The only woman who held her own more or less in the WWII narration was (surprise, surprise) a huge Scandinavian, crazy, alcoholic Half-Eskimo Half-You-Won’t-Guess-What guide from the Baltic Sea called Kitty.
Finally a drum roll please. Here comes the biggest weakness of the Wolf’s Hour.Every. Single. Sex. Scene. I skimmed them all, and it was still painful.
A decent, but not remarkable spy story, wrapped around a remarkable but not traditional Werewolf. The violent scenes tended to play out past their usefulness but somehow they still made sense; the sex scenes made no sense whatsoever and were completely redundant.
Flaws and all, the novel still gets some high marks for style, original ideas and smooth action scenes.