The werewolf is one of the most tragic monsters in literary history. Their condition is a curse, a constant struggle to deal with and suppress their primitive nature. Once the moon turns man to beast, his hunger is voracious, his lust is insatiable, and his violence is brutal. As humans, acting upon these urges has been generally frowned upon and sometimes shunned in societies both past and present. But we are wild creatures; always have been. We’ve hunted and gathered, we’ve been fruitful and multiplied, and clawed our way to the top tier of the food chain to ensure the survival and thriving of our species. Unfortunately, we’ve tamed ourselves in the past few centuries. The domestication of man has come at a cost: the suppression of our wildness. The werewolf represents our most basic instincts: consume, copulate, kill. Wolf lore has portrayed this beast as representing society’s struggle with our animal nature, and our attempts (and failures) to hide what we really are.
The Turning, by Micky Neilson, is a howling homage to the awesome werewolf lore we all grew up on. Neilson assumes that you’re already familiar with the old-school rules (the cursed is at the mercy of the moon, has superhuman strength when turned, can be killed by silver bullets, etc.) and goes a step further by adding new twists, like an anaphylactic-like reaction to colloidal silver. The story follows Brandon Frye as he deals with his curse after being bitten. Brandon does what most would do, once bitten: tries to avoid hurting others, by any means necessary. For him, this means going off the grid, closing himself off, and taking pills to suppress his more primal symptoms. In his quest of self-isolation, he boards a cruise ship to Alaska, where he meets the tame and sensible Ginny. Ginny is a passive player in her life and rarely listens to her gut, until she takes a chance on the handsome, masculine stranger with a mysterious past. Their romance is sudden, passionate, and sexy as hell. Neilson does not shy away from sexual themes, and is not afraid to explore the concept of sexuality as a repressed primal impulse through Ginny and Brandon’s relationship. Their graphic trysts are sure to cause a few raised eyebrows and earmarked pages for readers.
I gotta be real, I re-read the juicy parts a few times. Don’t judge me.
As Brandon and Ginny enjoy each others company on the high seas, a hunter is in pursuit. Brandon is the target of a different kind of predator, who is part of something big; something foreboding. Despite being a mortal human, this predator is a formidable foe for our lycanthropic protagonist. Alexander stalks his prey methodically, enjoying the thrill of the hunt. Unlike Brandon, Alexander is conscious of his primal “needs”, and revels in satisfying his impulses, to the point of getting deep,depraved gratification from slowly extracting life from others.
I want to take a minute to talk about how much I loved this villain. Alexander made me squirm at his sadism, and cry out whenever anyone crossed his path. One of the scenes that stood out for me was when Alexander was having drinks with a woman whom he was using for information about his prey. He never referred to her as a woman, or even human. He called her, “the cow”, “the pachyderm”, animal terms befitting the subhuman she was, in his eyes. The author put some serious work into this character (as he did with all characters in this story, even the minor ones), and it shows. He serves as a revolting antithesis to Brandon, and I really, really wanted to see him get his just desserts. This guy was a real piece of work.
I can’t say much more about the plot without spoiling things for the reader, but I will say that the climax was action-packed, and the ending made me gasp, “Dude, NO WAY!”
The only negative comment I have isn’t really all that negative; the book ended too soon. I need more. Fingers crossed for a series!
TL;DR: If you are a fan of the old-school werewolf movies like An American Werewolf in London or Silver Bullet, or if you just need a solid supernatural page-turner that’ll make you laugh out loud and hit you with some serious feels, I’d highly recommend that you pick up this book on Amazon. Snuggle in on the night of the next full moon, and enjoy the ride…