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Journeys to the Heartland - William Horwood

Journeys from the Heartlands is an anthropomorphic novel about the wolves of Europe who are fighting and struggling for survival against human violence and oppression. Horwood writes with a bloody realism, trying to be as realistic to wolf society as is possible in such a book, without turning them into wolf-shaped humans. Wolves follow their beliefs in ancient wolflore – the stories of Wulf and Wulfin who are their spiritual guides. Journeys to the Heartland is the first book that follows a number of wolves who are journeying to the Heartlands, to form a pack and take back the Heartlands from another fearsome pack, the Magyars.

Horwood set out to write a trilogy but due to problems after publication in relation to one of the main distributors, this did not happen and he only published one more, resulting in the author having to combine the storyline of the third into the second book. This might explain why the one and only time I saw this book was at the time I bought it – since then I have never seen it or the sequel anywhere.

This book has been very contrary for me. Did I like it? Did I enjoy it? Did I not like it?  My answer to these questions is yes, yes and yes. I liked it, I enjoyed it and I didn’t like it. I am interested in reading the second book, but at the same time I feel no desire to actually read it – merely find out what happens to these characters I came to know and care about.

His strengths lie within the writing and characterisations. The wolves felt realistic but at the same time they became people that I wanted to succeed and I felt close enough to relate to them. Horwood is a good writer in that he manages to take you deep within this natural world and make you understand and become a part of it. The plot itself I felt was interesting enough but it unfortunately lacked a lot of direction. This is where for me it becomes very contrary – it is well written enough to be enjoyable just for the sake of being in that ‘world’. However the characters and writing together do not really make up for the want of a strongly defined plot.

Some parts of the book come from a human’s perspective – a good human and a bad human. These parts felt a little disjointed and injected rather then developed. It is set during the second world war – a time of great upheaval, violence and death. Perhaps Horwood decided on this setting to represent the destructive forces of humans. However due to wolves not really understanding human warfare it is again, a very vague part of the book and feels an unnecessary  component towards the plot. I understand this theme will become more apparent in the second book – one of the characters from the evil Magyar pack even known as the Fuhrer. The parallel though is weak – as is the idea of evil.

One of the themes of the book was the corruption of the world by humans, known as ‘mennen’ to the wolves. Most of the wolves in this book had been victim to human destruction or cruelty of some sort. The lead female of the Magyar pack was brought up and thus corrupted by humans. She became a particularly sick and twisted character to a very exaggerated degree.

I’m okay with sick and twisted – but only if I think there is a point to it and I didn’t really think he put it across very well at all. If this evil wolf was meant to symbolise the corruption of humans upon the natural environment then Horwood failed in my eyes. There could have been a stronger, more meaningful message but instead Horwood tied it up with this caricature of evil that will continue onto the second book – another reason that puts me off wanting to continue reading this story. 

It is a bit ironic that after ten years sitting around on my shelf, never being read and getting dusty – that in the end I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped. Dust Mites one, Fiona nil.

At least it is off my shelf and onto bookmooch, if anyone wants it that is.