Title: The Wehrwolf
Author: Alma Katsu
Release date: September 29, 2022
Honestly, SHAME ON ME! That’s right. SHAME ON STEVE! Chant it – go ahead. I deserve it.
Why? Well, first – you should know my love of werewolf fiction by now. Second – Alma Katsu is not only a phenomenal writer, but also one of the kindest people in the dark fiction community. Not that she’s lost sleep over me not having already read this and reviewed it, but she deserves better from me and I’m happy to say I’ve rectified that by devouring this tasty piece of fur and fanged fiction.
So, as for the novella, back in 1944 the Nazi’s developed a program called Werwolf in which they were attempting to create a force of soldiers that would operate behind enemy lines. This idea was created in the hopes of infiltration and ambushing an unsuspecting group of soldiers.
Katsu takes that idea and marries it with the Brother’s Grimm lore to give us a rollicking fun story.
What I liked: The story follows feeble farmer Uwe, who lives in the deep forests of Germany, far away from the front lines. His wife and daughter are his everything, and up until now, the war has stayed away from them. The village does it’s best to remain away from the war itself and to not choose sides, knowing that whether the Nazi’s win or the Allied forces are victorious, they’ll need to adapt in order to survive post war.
Katsu ramps things up early on, when a body is found, ripped apart, not far from Uwe’s farmhouse. From there, he is pressured to join a militia group, led by bully Hans, to patrol their village at night and keep threats away. What Uwe doesn’t know, is that the group has the ability to transform into the fabled beasts and will do whatever it takes to keep their homes safe.
We get a really solid look at the inner workings of a conflicted man. One who has never been included, never been strong enough to stand up for himself and never developed friendships. Now, that he has joined Hans and his crew, he gets all of that and more, but at what cost? It’s a great metaphor for the real-life political turmoil we often see daily in the news in the US, but up here in Canada, it also rings home with what we saw with the Anti-Vax movement and the ridiculous Freedom Convey. It demonstrates just how quickly someone can change given a little bit of self esteem and comradery and shows the all-too-real threat of peer pressure.
The ending is a blistering climax of decisiveness and horror. We see Uwe seek revenge over a horrific turn of events and how he seeks out others to aide him with what needs to be done.
What I didn’t like: Straight up – if you hate overtly political based fiction, you may want to skip this one, especially if you are a raging fan of the former orange douchebag that somehow was elected. This one’s probably not for you. You can gloss over the political aspect and simply read it as a werewolf story, but that’ll be hard to do and you’ll not want to read the afterword.
I thought the political angle worked really well for this piece, but as always with my reviews, I try to state what someone diving into this may not enjoy.
Why you should buy this: Well, as I said in my hilariously ridiculous intro – if you like werewolf fiction, buy it. If you like Alma’s work, buy it. If you want a piece of dark fiction that’ll have you ripping through it in a single sitting, buy it. It was a blast and definitely one that’ll make you think and question what you would do in that situation.