by Cynthia Ayala ’16
By: Richard A. Knaak
Published: May 1990
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Speculative Fiction
Shipwrecked long ago on the Dragonrealm, the half-human Gryphon rose to free part of the land from the tyranny of the drake lords, yet his own past remained a forgotten mystery, until now. Haunted by the dark words of an old foe, he crosses the sea and journeys into the domain of the wolf raiders. But the answers come with a price…the wrath of a savage god.
Wolfhelm follows the Gryphon who is exploring the land of the wolf raiders to seek answers about his past and face the villain who hunts him, the wolf raider D’Shay. Given the premise, the main character of the novel as well as the location of the novel has changed, and for the better. This has been the best Dragonrealm novel thus far. The adventure was non-stop and the characters were far more likable than in the previous novels and the plot made it interesting. Knaak took a character from Firedrake and Ice Dragon who had no past and focused all the attention on building up his character and give answers to the readers who have been following the Dragonrealm journey. Moreover, the other characters have better personalities than the former books.
The main love interest in the novel to the Gryphon is Tyori, a cat-like woman whose charisma leaps off the pages. She is strong and sly, just like a cat. Her narrative was amazing and her description gives the readers something to latch onto other than her vibrant personality.
The cast of villains was also very well constructed. In Wolfhelm there is a disembodied voice seeking power that is constantly switching sides, a naïve god, a delusional wolf raider, and an incredibly vengeful god.
The cast of characters was entrancing, but some of the scenes needed to be constructed better. Many of the scenes were jumbled together and transitions were not smooth half the time. The attention of the reader is easily lost as well considering that both the inner plot and the outside plot were constantly shifting. At one moment, it’s one thing and at another is completely different. It’s fine if the outside overall plot changes and develops into something grander like it does, but the build up to it was lackluster and not structured well at all.
Wolfhelm was simply not captivating, it’s easy to put down and easy to miss details due to real world distractions. Knaak is trying to create a world here much like Dragonlance, a world he was part of, but it does work for him. This world and these characters, except for Tyori, don’t leap off the pages and don’t captivate the reader in their quests. That’s the saddest part. If you have read other pieces of Knaak’s work then you won’t appreciate these novels, however if you haven’t, you may actually enjoy this novel.
Personally, I think Richard A. Knaak should stick with Dragonlance because building stories rather than realms seems to be his real knack. ★★★ (B-)