Claidi is an unlikely, “plain” girl trapped in a love triangle. On the one hand, there’s the golden prince, Nemian, with whom she is instantly, on sight in love. Though he can be short with her, he always comes back and apologizes and assures her that he needs her. On the other, there’s Argul, the leader of a “family” of bandits, of whom she is at first terrified. He comes to her rescue, but she then has rather little interaction with him because he is busy looking after everyone in his train till during a celebration in a city of clockwork and colored glass he spends the whole night dancing with her. She respects him. He is a true leader, but she has promised to follow Nemian.
Now, that sounds like the plot of Twilight and all its hoard, but Tanith Lee wrote Wolf Tower and The Claidi Journals before Stephanie Meyer published a word and while Claidi may fall quickly and mushily for Nemian and while I think I would prefer the story if Claidi relied less upon her men (she really could have probably executed her escape from the City without Argul, though certainly it was convenient for him to provide the horse and to be about so that they could ride off together into the figurative sunset), there’s still much here to appreciate.
Wolf Tower is a journey book. It begins with a disruption of Claidi’s life of drudgery and structure, which leads to her escape from that life, and then the majority of the novel is spent in Claidi’s discovery of the various cultures and wonders of the world beyond the House in which she grew up. Lee paints vivid pictures of some of the places: Peshamba and the Rain Gardens. Her cultures are varied and fairly well formed for the short amount of time that we get to spend with most of them. All this too Lee paints while still having Claidi believably in the dark as to the people’s languages, picking up only slowly on the language of the Hulta, Argul’s train with whom she spends the most time.
Color might be the word of the novel, color and vitality.
Here, the epistolary format (journal) is done, I hope, to underscore Claidi’s disregard for rules, as foreshadowing for the rules that she will break. It also helps to show the passage of time as sometimes Claidi simply puts “NTW” (nothing to write) (6) before her life becomes exciting. Even in the Waste, some entries simply state “Depressed. / Have now been here eight days, also depressed. / Depressed” (77).
The epistolary form here is not too jarring or awkward, though Claidi’s frequently describes her current emotional or physical state before saying that she had better leap back and tell it from the beginning because we, her imaginary reader, would probably prefer that. By referring to the imagined reader, Claidi draws the reader into her story.
My impression Wolf Tower is rather colored by the recommendation that I received from my friend at Building a Door, whose writing has, I think, been pretty heavily influenced by this childhood love of hers. I enjoyed the game of drawing parallel’s between my friend’s writing and Lee’s.
Wolf Tower left me initially wanting just a little more resolution.
Lee, Tanith. The Claidi Collection, Book One: Wolf Tower. New York: Dutton-Penguin, 2003.
Wolf Tower first published 1998. British title, Law of the Wolf Tower.
This review is not endorsed by Tanith Lee, Dutton Children’s Books or Penguin Group. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.