by Emily Veinglory, fantasy (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-60504-066-5
The cover of Wolfkin is so pretty, it's almost a crime that this one is a short story and therefore the cover is never going to make it to print. Is that Robin Hood-like guy on the cover supposed to be our hero Arun? He's pretty cute. I have a suspicion that admitting that I find such an emo guy cute will warrant at least three bad poems posted on a Livejournal account on my part as penance, but what the heck, he's cute.
Set in a medieval-era fantasy world, this story introduces Arun and his sister Miri. They are orphans whose childhoods, as you can probably imagine, weren't the happiest moments of their lives. When the story opens, Miri has found a job as the village seamstress and is about to marry her boyfriend. Arun, on the other hand, has found his calling - or so he believes - in the worship of the Fire God. Our acolyte has to "volunteer" to become the bait of a "wolfkin" that is terrorizing their village in exchange for having the loathsome lord of the place restrain from exercising his droit de seigneur on Miri.
Arun is part of a trap to ensnare the wolfkin. His virgin body will draw out the lusty wolfkin and during the happy doggy hour that will follow, a magical amulet that Arun is made to wear will do the woo-woo to weaken the beast and render him more easy to capture. What has Arun to lose? Either the wolfkin will kill him or shag him - whatever will happen, he will never become a Fire God priest after this. Like Athena, the Fire God likes all his priests to be virginal.
Of course, Arun will soon learn that the wolfkin isn't some savage monster but rather... well, I'll let you find out for yourself if you are interested to know. The experience changes Arun irrevocably. Meanwhile, Miri has no idea of what Arun went through so she's confused and at loss as to how to deal with her brother who seems to have withdrawn into some kind of shell overnight. What will Arun do in order to make himself feel whole again? What of the wolfkin fellow?
Wolfkin is a short story but goodness, it feels so much like a complete and whole story that I am completely engrossed in that I am surprised when I look up once I've hit the last page that I've only been lost in Ms Veinglory's beautiful new world for an hour or so. This story is beautiful. I know, "beautiful" is such a trite and generic word, but that's how I feel about Wolfkin. I'm lost in the poetry of Arun's inner religious conflict, his developing emotions for Trae the wolfkin, and his finding his place in the world.
Arun is a wonderful hero. He's lonely and lost, finding solace in religion and trying to reconcile himself with the fact that his act of sacrifice has now barricaded him from his path to priesthood. At the same time, this fellow is not some whiny little-girl-with-a-penis stereotype of the pretty boy in the gay relationship. He feels real and as a result, I am wholly engaged in his story. Meanwhile, despite the rather generic setting, the sense of description is well done. I can "see" very well what the author is describing and I really like what I "see".
Wolfkin is a rare short story that I feel is as good as a full-length story in delivering an emotionally-charged romantic fantasy. The cover is beautiful, but the story is even more sublime.
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