Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells. ★★★★
I’m not sure how I found this book, but I’m so glad that I did. It’s a kick ass science fiction story with a great world and two female leads who are both strong in their own way.
Tanegawa’s World is a company planet, controlled by TransRifts Inc, which has a monopoly on interstellar travel. Those blacklisted by the corporation tend to wind up dead. Yet some resist the might of TransRifts. Hob’s a Ghost Wolf, a mercenary biker troop that does what TransRifts won’t. They’ve run under the radar of the corporation, never directly challenging them. Then Hob finds the body of her adopted uncle out in the desert, shot in the back. The reasons are unknown, but the culprit is clear. And worse than that, his daughter and Hob’s best friend, Mags, is missing.
I’m going to start with my favorite thing about Hunger Makes the Wolf: the ladies. I live for SFF books where there’s multiple, well rounded female characters who work together. Mags and Hob give me all this and more. They’re best friends and sort of adopted sisters, but their relationship has been strained the last few years, with Hob refusing to talk to Mags. Despite that, Hob immediately leaps to rescue Mags when she discovers she’s missing. And while Mags may start out as a damsel in distress, she quickly proves she’s much more, all without picking up a weapon.
I love Mags’s characterization so much, and I’m so happy that Hunger Makes the Wolf shows that there’s multiple ways for a woman to be important and interesting besides the mold of Hollywood’s Strong Female Character. She succeeds based on grit, intelligence, and empathy, not based on physical prowess. While I love a good Action Girl, I love it even more when we get a diversity in roles for female characters. Plus, I get the feeling Mags might be queer! I’m not willing to call it canon quite yet, but I sense romantic potential between her and another female character…
As it currently stands, there’s no romance in this series. However, I’m betting that both Mags and Hob will gain romantic plot lines in the sequel (tends to be true for most books). I already talked about Mags, but I also get the feeling that Wells is building up to something between Hob and a character called the Bone Collector. Which brings me to another point…
Hunger Makes the Wolf might be most accurately described as science fiction fantasy. You see, it’s got magic. Or, well, witchiness as it’s called in the book. Over the years that TransRifts has controlled Tanegawa’s World, they’ve periodically instituted witch hunts, and they continue to turn the residents against anyone who shows signs of being a “witch.” Hob knows she’s a witch — she can make fire burn from her hands, and she’s had visions of a phoenix. But what does being a witch mean? What can she do with her power? And what’s so special about Tanegawa’s World that makes people develop witchiness?
There’s clearly something special about Tanegawa’s World, something that makes TransRift care a whole heck of a lot about keeping it under tight control. As a setting, it worked wonderfully. So vivid that I was immediately transported and with plenty of mysteries to keep me reading. I really enjoyed the feel of the gritty, corporate run mining towns, which had more than a little Western vibe to them. Western/Fantasy/Science Fiction mashup would be an apt description of Hunger Makes the Wolf! Putting it like that, it sounds like the book could be clunky or overwhelming, but it never was. Hunger Makes the Wolf is a seamless whole.
I had a hard time putting this book down, and it made me stay up later than I’d intended! At heart, this book was just a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I’ve already started recommending it to friends, and I’m sure that I’ll continue to do so. This series needs more love!