REVIEW: Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
Dear Ms. Schwab:
I remember when The Lily Brand was release in 2005 and many were shocked by its dark tones. I had to read it because it sounded different and back a few years ago, we weren’t really getting the variety that we have today. Like many dark books, in The Lily Brand once the redemption of the heroine occurred, the story began to lose some forward motion but I still anxiously awaited the next book because your voice was so interesting.
Unfortunately nothing came out and I confess to having forgotten about you until I received an email wondering if I would read Castle of the Wolf. Castle of the Wolf was written in a completely different tone than your previous effort. It still had dark overtones, but those were more gothic than horror in nature.
Celia is a 27 year old spinster who lived with her father, brother and brother’s wife. When her father dies, Celia’s sister in law becomes lady of the manor. Dorinda quickly makes it clear she views Celia as an unwanted drain on the family’s income and insinuates what Celia’s role in the household will be akin to the hired help.
During the reading of the will, Celia finds that her dear father has provided for her in the form of a castle in the Black Forest. Her father had purchased the castle from the Wolfenbach’s some 11 years ago when the Wolfenbach’s were in some kind of financial trouble. To provide for Celia and to return the castle to the Wolfenbach’s, the will proposes that Celia marry the unwed son.
Anything would be better than living with Dorinda and Celia is off to Castle Wolfenbach. The trouble is that the Castle comes with a very surly beast who just happens to the be the eldest son of the Wolfenbachs and an unwed one to boot. Fenris is an angry man who has lived in the Castle for the last 10 years or so by himself and a few retainers. Fenris has good reason to be angry. He went off to fight against Napoleon and for that brought shame upon his family. He came back from the war, disfigured and dishonored. His fiance abandoned him, as did most everyone but his family.
The very last thing he wants is to give up his sanctuary to some English miss. Her mere presence is a reminder of his youthful folly. Complicating this is Fenris sunny brother, Leopold, who is intent on charming Cissy as the will codicil didn’t say which brother she had to marry.
The characterizations are deft. Dorinda claims to have went to a French finishing school and tosses a few French words into her sentences to prove it.
. As the noveau baroness I have to inspire new confidence and hope in toutes les braves gens.”
When confronted by Fenris and his anger and poor treatment, Cissy doesn’t immediately fall in love like some romance misses. She responds quite normally, developing a healthy dislike for Fenris. There is a certain fairy tale quality to the story, even above and beyond the obvious theme of beauty and the beast. Perhaps it is the setting, deep in the black forest. Perhaps it is the hint of otherworldly elements embedded in the castle walls. Perhaps it is just the story itself of a poor and plain young woman taming the angry beast of a hurt young man.
It isn’t a perfect book by any means. I found some of the usage of ellipses and repetition to be tiresome. I didn’t really enjoy the brief chapter interludes as they were vague and somewhat melodramatic. The setting and atmospheric quality lent itself to a good read. B.