Dyrwolf by Kat Kinney — A Review

Dyrwolf is a YA Fantasy story about growing up, about identity, rights, wrongs, false assumptions, love, and a little bit of a political edge. It pulls all of these elements together into a story that, magic aside, feels real. The hero isn’t always right. War isn’t always right or wrong. The good guys don’t always win, and our protagonist isn’t at the center of everything. Events move between the chapters, while Lea sleeps, and the story unfolds in a way that is organic and as confusing for Lea as life is for us.

The story shines most when any of the six-or-so most important characters are on screen. The web of secrets and lies between them, digging into the foundation of the war that’s going on and the love borne between several of them, really makes sense. There is very little “I can’t tell you” sitcom-style silliness, which is impressive considering the amount of distrust and deception going on. Every little reveal pulled me further into the story.

The battles are vivid, the romance is good and has events that naturally strengthen the bonds. The story does adhere in some places to old tales, mixing bits from Star Wars and Shakespeare, but it includes just enough of a twist by the end that I can natually say, “I have never read a story quite like this one.” Specifically, without spoilers, I loved the role that Lea played in the story. Her position in the conflict, and her eventual impact on the war and the other characters… it isn’t the normal impact that a hero might have. Small actions that changed the future of many in this book.

Lea herself is an engaging protagonist, and her struggles are endearing. Anyone who has struggled with illness, with being an outcast, with regretting past actions, or with misjudging or mistreating another will find a kindred soul in Lea.

The grey shaded morality and nuance of the war was also appreciated. In today’s political world, a take like this is needed. There is no ‘evil empire’ to conquer, and that makes things more difficult.

Not everything in this story shone perfect. The tale is told in present tense. This wouldn’t be a problem, but for the first third of the book. When the author includes a flashback for Lea, there is nothing to mark the scene change, no change in tense, nothing of the sort. When she is dreaming, it’s the same way. Suddenly, before the reader has a chance to orient themselves, we see written “I am three years old” and we’re off somewhere else. Later in the story, when recent events are recounted or stories are told by the characters, they use past tense… because the event is in the past. Those ‘flashbacks’ are much more palatable. With the amount of information being introduced in the first five chapters, this commitment to writing everything in present tense made the read difficult for me. It took me a few days to get into the book, due to the overload of information being thrown at me in a very present, very sensory-oriented way.

That’s my main gripe. I hope that, in any inevitable sequels, the ‘magic system’ in this world is elaborated on. We only caught a glimpse, which was required for the plot to move, but I think there is much more there.

On a final note, do not read this book if you have a phobia of vomit. It’s not borne out in sensory detail, but it’s there pretty consistently. Otherwise, if a bit of YA werewolf love-and-war fantasy sounds intruiging at all to you, I’d highly recommend Dyrwolf!

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