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Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Wolf's Bane

Nominated for the 1998 Oregon Book Awards

Wolf's Bane thumbnail: link to blurb, cover

Author's Statement about the Novel
Excerpt from Interview
Review:  Wolf's Bane

"A power that literally leaves me breathless.  ...Before I knew it, I was getting into a story that literally
made me choke back tears and feel that my heart was being torn apart. ...(Tara K. Harper) is far and above
one of the most inventive and imaginative writers of Science Fantasy out there."

             - Explorations

Author's Statement about the Novel

- Coming soon -

Each semblance of a grief hath twenty shadows.

     - Richard II, William Shakespeare

Excerpt from Interview on Science Fiction Books
Weekly Feature, 9/4/1997, from

Interviewer Howard Taylor:  In the spirit of tantalizing faithful fans, what are you working on right now?  When can we read it?

Tara K. Harper:   Wolf's Bane, a Wolfwalker novel, will hit the stands in October/November of this year.  (Eric Peterson, who did that wonderful Grayheart cover, also did a great job on Wolf's Bane.  

What's the story about? Plotwise, the story is about finding hope beyond grief; finding a new future when the future one thought one had suddenly ceases to exist; taking the first step in reaching the stars which have been forbidden to mankind.  In _Wolf's Bane_, Dion finds a way to go beyond her limited view of her world to a view that expands the future not only for herself, but for her world.

If you ask me otherwise, in an unqualified fashion, what the story is about, my answer is simply: grief.  My grief: the grief of a living death--a death I live with every day--and the grief for another death that mercifully ended, and a dozen other deaths in my life.  After all, what is life but a statement of grief of one sort or another?  Dion, the Wolfwalker, gave me a vehicle for expressing my grief, for insisting that there must be something beyond grief, for reaching for a future, even when I cannot see next week, next month, next year.

Wolf's Bane is not an easy book, but then, it is not meant to be easy:  It was meant to be an expression of my self.

Wolf's Bane  by Tara K. Harper

Review Copyright 1998 C. R. Meddian
Reprinted here with permission from C. R. Meddian, SF Reviews

[This review contains spoilers for Wolf's Bane, as well as potential spoilers for the earlier books in this series.]

Wolf's Bane is the fifth novel in the Wolfwalker series of sf-fantasy-adventures.  It takes place on a distant world, where colonists continue to rebuild from a centuries-old, devastating plague.  At first glance, the culture seems to be prerenaissance, with a bit of salvaged postmodern technology thrown in.  Ember Dione is the central character, a capable woman who is telepathically bonded to gray wolves; creatures genetically engineered by the original colonists to help settle this planet.  Dione's bond to the wolves both blesses her with extra-human senses, including a mystical power to heal, called Ovousibas; but also damns her to a kind of self-imposed isolation from the human world.

I like this experimental novel, which is very subtly composed as a four-part opera, complete with prelude and encore.  Musical structures are embedded throughout the story in the poems and philosophical laments of the central figures.  At times these musical structures don't quite work and end up detracting from the flow of the story, but overall, they are smoothly disguised and quite ingenious.  Despite its flaws, I hope that readers who are looking for something far out of the ordinary will give this risky new work a chance.  I enjoyed it immensely, and consider it a near-classic of tragedy.

In the prelude, Ember Dione bolts into the night on a six-legged beast, called a dnu, riding alone on a glowing, luciferace-lit road, called a root road. We learn that she is out to converge with a venge, a group of fighters fending off a band of cut-throat raiders.  Dione is a force of nature, determined, capable and dangerous.  Nothing can stop her; she is on top of the world.

In the first act after an encounter that has significant consequences later in the story, we discover that all is not well in the life of this extraordinary woman who has risen to high status in her society.  She is at odds with herself.  Her commitment to serve the community is overwhelming her need to be with her family.  Soul-searching compels her to keep a promise to her children and merely postpone her commitments to others for a short time; but that simple choice leads to a tragic event that changes her life forever.  As she sprints to the safety of a cave, her youngest son is torn from her arms and shredded by a flock of carnivorous birds called lepa.  Trapped in the cave, gravely wounded and dying, her bond to the gray wolves is her only hope of rescue.

Second act: Ember Dione, near-dead, is found by her husband, Aranur.  He and a small band of comrades and wolves arrive to carry her near-lifeless form to safety.  He clings to her desperately while racing back to their home on a dnu.  In perhaps the most moving scene in the novel, they ride together in silence, while one by one, pack by pack, a sea of gray wolves converge upon them and the now-lifeless form of the great wolfwalker.  The gray wolves fight to bring her back to life by passing their own life's energy to her.  They eventually succeed, but their actions complicate the bond between wolfwalker and wolves and drive Dione, at the end of this story, even further from humanity and into the arms of an alien race.  After a long convalescence, Dione recovers physically, but the death of her son leaves her empty, without purpose in her soul.

The third act is a metaphor for Dione's search for life's meaning.  To cope with the loss of her son, she sets out on a journey.  She is accompanied by three companions, leaving her husband behind.  We begin to feel the depth of her isolation as she turns away from her husband to find solace in the wilderness.  The journey to heal herself does not go well and a renewed encounter leads to another tragedy, leaving her even more empty than before.

In the fourth and final act, she starts on yet another journey, part-suicide, part-commitment to find a cure for the plague which is killing the pups of the gray wolves--a plague that seems to have resurged since the wolves saved her life.  To repay the wolves and give her own life meaning before she dies, she seeks out a long-feared and deadly avian race, called Aiueven.  After contact ensues, a discourse takes place telepathically.  The author constructs a new sentence form that works well to evoke the complexity of the avian thought-process.  Dione survives the encounter, but the Aiueven leave her without a cure for the plague.  Empty as before, but with renewed purpose, she continues in the hope of curing the wolves and humans of the plague.  Finally, the encore reexamines the theme of the novel and provides a small ray of hope, but the author remains true to the isolated nature of the main character.

Ember Dione is a difficult hero.  Although she is passionately dedicated to her community and especially to her family, she is seemingly incapable of ever letting her guard down.  At times it is painful for the reader to be inside of her mind.  Perhaps to protect herself from the telepathic draw of the wolves, she gradually builds a wall of isolation that eventually buries her.  This characterization of a solitary and driven woman adds darkness to the tragedy of her story.  Bitter events cannot make her bring down that wall, especially not in front of her husband, even if it means hurting him by locking him out of her heart.

This is not an escapist's novel.  It is a deceptively complex story, based on a very simple plot line, with hidden symbolism, written in a unique style, not unlike a musical composition.  It is ultimately a story about a woman coming to grips with loss.  I enjoyed it very much for all of those reasons and strongly recommend it to anyone who is a fan a tragedy, and especially to readers who are interested in musical forms transcribed into literature.

                            - C. R. Meddian, SF Reviews

Copyright 2000 by Tara K. Harper
All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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