An Apprentice to Elves (Iskryne World #3)
By: Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
Format/Source: eARC courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley
Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear return with the third book in their Iskryne trilogy, An Apprentice to Elves. The trilogy began with A Companion to Wolves, and continued in The Tempering of Men. This novel picks up the story of Alfgyfa, a young woman who has been raised in the Wolfhall by her father, Isolfr.
The warrior culture of Iskryne forbids many things to women—and most especially it forbids them bonding to one of the giant telepathic trelwolves. But as her father was no ordinary boy, Alfgyfa is no ordinary girl. Her father has long planned to send his daughter to Tin, a matriarch among the elves who live nearby, to be both apprentice and ambassador, and now she is of age to go.
I heard that this book was coming out this autumn, but it seemed to slip my knowledge that it was an installment in a trilogy. Oops. Didn’t stop me from reading it though 😛 Plus, how stunning is that book cover? This book became available on 13 October 2015.
The worldbuilding of this novel was definitely a highlight whilst reading, it was very interesting and rich with cultural detail, the groups’ way of living, their social structure, etc. I can see a lot of Viking and Nordic influences in the society, especially with the naming system. As the book blurb mentions, the culture forbits women to bond with wolves which main character Alfgyfa quells about but it doesn’t stop her from pursuing her desire to be amongst the wolves. She’s pretty tenacious and refuses to sit back and be denied something she wants.
Having said that, it was a rather slow and dry experience for me to read. I was almost halfway through the novel and I still couldn’t really see where the plot was heading. Yes, there was talk of war, but I didn’t feel the pressing nature of the conflict, no sense that danger was right around the corner and that everyone and everything was going to be affected by it. I felt there was too much show and not enough tell–or dialogue in the first half–to really get a sense of the characters and be compelled by their situation.
Overall, An Apprentice to Elves was an interesting if rather slow read. I don’t know if it would have helped to have read the first two novels; I didn’t feel completely lost reading it as the narrative did set up a very good explanation to Alfgyfa’s world and the people she is surrounded with. I felt it could’ve used more immediate tension to keep my attention and empathy on the story and the characters’ plights, but the worldbuilding was fantastic and definitely a highlight.