In The Wolf Mile, Spartans and Vikings fight on the twilight streets of modern Edinburgh. Sounds like there should be some sorcery to go with those swords, right?
Not tonight. In C.F. Barrington’s Edinburgh the only magic that makes it possible for the Pantheon’s games, in Edinburgh and beyond, is money – Money and a dash of human greed and desperation.
The games are the ultimate blood sport – Underground in theory but rumoured and whispered about. Throngs of the powerful and rich vie to bet fortunes on the blood and pain of others as the Gods of the Pantheon sponsor their forces to fight in their name against their opponents.
While the other warbands dwell in separate cities, the streets of Edinburgh have 2 secret bands of warriors. The Spartans dwell above, on the roofs, while the Vikings lurk in the catacombs and tunnels below. No one quite knows why, but the Spartans moved to Edinburgh years before, to take up an intense rivalry with the Vikings from the roofs and ramparts of the old city.
Their members hide their identities, both from their enemies and each other. They are recruited in secret and trained to prove they are worthy of their mantles as warriors of the past, rather than the 21st century – well paid, but leaving their mobile phones and the trappings of modern society aside for cold steel and wool on the cobblestones of Edinburgh when the Season arrives and blood must be shed. Those who wish to fight in the streets must prove themselves, not just on the training field, but out in the wild, and not all of them will make it. some come from normal, if broken lives, like Tyler and Lana, but some come from the Schola…. Lost children stolen away by the Pantheon, educated and trained to be warriors, who see themselves as superior to those who have lived normal lives and seek the escape of battle.
Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron have their own demons to slay, and their own reasons to try out for a place in the Viking warbands. We get to follow along as they learn about themselves, remake their lives and make new friends and enemies. Sometimes questions are more dangerous than cold steel, and Tyler learns that it is far too easy to look for an answer and get it very wrong. Tyler seeks his sister, while Lana is fleeing her past and looking for a new life, or maybe death?
C.F. Barrington describes the city vividly, and the strange coexistence of the warriors of the two warbands with both the daytime and nighttime populations of Edinburgh. In The Wolf Mile, we see the strange interplays of the rich and powerful pantheon and their horribly petty and familiar quibbles that spend the lives of much better (and worse) men and women so cheaply for their entertainment and ego.
Vivid imagery and stark descriptions make few excuses for the choices made by the characters in the book, very rarely do we find anyone that is innocent, but we can see and understand the decisions people make to get where they are, and how they end up in the Games, at the (well paid) bidding of the Pantheon. For every answer, there are more questions as we start the trilogy, and meet new friends and their enemies.
I’m definitely a fan of this series and looking forward to seeing where it takes us. Barrington writes well, especially the conflict and battle scenes, but his affection for the city and the background of the 2 warbands shows through, too. The Wolf Mile is a great introduction to a new world, and a new series by a new author.