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It’s an odd combination to be had in a novel in the era of youth-driven paranormal romance and fantasy: A protagonist in her middle ages showing how life has worn her down, only to be brought back to life, so to speak, by a gift from a supernatural town. Catherine Lundoff’s Silver Moon (Lethe Press) introduces the reader to a small, tight-knit town call Wolf’s Point, where Becca Thornton, a newly-divorced woman, is starting her life over at the age of 50.
If only the story was so simple—the supernatural forces that protect the town have other ideas for Thornton.
As a paranormal fantasy based on werewolves, it would have been easy for this to slip into a generic “Person finds out they’re a werewolf, instantly accepts it, and goes out proudly into the world” cliché, because that would be the easiest method of storytelling. What Lundoff brings to the table is a very visceral internal conversation where Thornton slowly comes to terms with this new part of herself; this growth of character is facilitated by a well-developed group of supporting characters, appropriately named “The Pack”—similar women of a certain age who have gone through the werewolf change and have come together as a support system.
Out of women of The Pack, two stand out as important influences in Thornton’s life, Shelly—the Alpha leader of The Pack—and Erin, another member of the pack and Thornton’s main “love interest.” I put that in quotes because the relationship building between the two is rather subtle, partly because the story is more plot-driven than character-driven, and because the reader only gets glimpses of attraction between Thornton and Erin; this is exasperated by Thornton’s ambiguity in regards to her sexuality. The back cover copy (labeling this as a “Lesbian Fantasy”) is rather deceptive in this regard, as Thornton does not outright identify as a lesbian, only stating that Erin is her first crush with someone of the same sex as herself. While Erin is a lesbian and the attraction is mutual, the affections exchanged between the two—aside from subtle glances and Thornton’s bashful inner monologue—only go so far as a passionate kiss in the heat-of-the-moment, so anyone expecting a fully realized romance between the two will be disappointed.
However, the lack of romance does not deter Lundoff’s beautiful setting and character building of the secondary characters, along with the antagonist—a mysterious woman named Oya—who leads her own pack called “The Nesters” who want to hunt down the werewolves for reasons that are less obvious than the typical “Humans hate the unknown, so we must kill them” trope. Oya herself is built up as arrogant but willing to back up her words (be they promises or threats). As the narrative moves along, it becomes clear that Oya has her own very personal agenda against The Pack and will stop at nothing to destroy them, even if it means sacrificing her own group to do so.
All of this leads to the biggest success of the novel: The setting of Wolf’s Point as a character unto itself. The mythology behind the forest-surrounded town adds an authenticity to the drama surrounding the werewolves, especially in regards to what kind of person changes into a werewolf and how the ancestry of Wolf’s Point’s original inhabitants comes together, all providing a well-round backdrop to the battle for The Pack’s survival against The Nesters.
When looking upon the book as a whole, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise considering its short length; while it disappoints in the romance department (or even in the development of Thornton’s sexuality), its action, world-building, and relatable secondary characters more than make up for the minor (if nit-picky) faults.
By Catherine Lundoff
Paperback, 9781590213797, 218 pp.