Monday, April 11, 2016

Among Wolves


About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

R.A. Hakok grew up in Ireland but lives in London. Viable, a medical thriller, was his first novel. It was recently followed by Among Wolves, a chilling tale about a small group of schoolchildren who find themselves living inside a mountain after the world outside ends. The second book in the Children of the Mountain series, The Devil You Know, will be available shortly. For further details please visit


There's only one place left that’s safe.

It’s the last place you should be.

Gabriel remembers the Last Day. He and Mags had been on a tour of the White House with the rest of Miss Kimble’s first-graders when it happened. They fled with the President to a long-abandoned bunker, even as the first of the bombs began to fall.

Ten years have passed, and now Gabriel is almost grown. He still lives deep inside the mountain, waiting for the world to thaw. But outside the storms continue to rage, and supplies are running low. The President says it will be okay, because they are the Chosen Ones. But Gabriel isn’t so sure. Gabriel’s their scavenger, and he’s seen what it’s like out there.

Then one day Gabriel finds a bloodstained map. The blood’s not a problem, nor are the frozen remains of the person it once belonged to. Gabriel’s used to seeing dead bodies. There's far worse to be found in any Walmart or Piggly Wiggly you care to wander into.

Except this one he recognizes, and it shouldn’t be all the way out here. Now all Gabriel can think is how he's going to make it back to the bunker and let the President know what he's found.

But Gabriel's troubles are only just beginning. For things are not as they seem inside the mountain, and soon he will face a much larger problem: how to get Mags and the others out.


Very, very well-written, post-apocalyptic tale of teenagers who've grown up in a mountain since the world has been thrust into a nuclear winter.

The main character, Gabe, is one of only two people who is trusted to go out into the cold, harsh world in search of anything that the group can use.  His narrating voice is smooth and almost calming as he carries the audience through what the world is now like.

I have to admit that there were four major issues that almost brought this down one more star.

1.  I am a lover of character development and imagery, but there were pages and pages of narrative meticulously laying out what the characters are doing, but very little of it leads anywhere. 

For instance, the first day they go out, the audience can fully visualize the world and how it's changed.  The audience can see how dangerous the weather is (snow so deep they have to wear snowshoes or risk getting frost-bite, so it's more than just a little cold weather), and I loved being immersed in the world, but for the other times that they go out, the audience gets more of the same, laying out how they search houses and what they find and what Gabe stashes for other people. 

The audience doesn't have to follow to see everything they find.  This is one instance in which "show vs. tell" is overrated.  As with everything in life, there is a balance.  Show is absolutely needed in some situations, and I loved being immersed in the beginning, but summing up subsequent trips out would have kept the book from feeling too long.  Show the audience only what they need to see!

2.  It may sound petty, but I'm not a huge fan of en medias res openings.  It feels like a cheap shot to me; a quick sneak peek to grab the audiences attention before thrusting them backwards in time where they can easily figure out what will happen to lead to where the story began.  I want to be very clear; the writing in this story is so phenomenal that this type of opening is not needed.  I started reading this book and was finished in one day, the prose being so smooth.

3. Much of the dialogue was glossed over.  Having dialogue in a novel is something that helps me become that much more immersed.  I have to imagine facial expressions, infliction in voice, hands that punctuate!

4.  Too many concurrent stories being told.  There's the post-apocalyptic tale that's the main focus, and interwoven is a 3rd person narrative of what started the apocalypse, and also interwoven is the apocalyptic story of how these teens came to survive long enough to get to the mountain.  It was all interesting, and it's not lost on me that these woven tales do help the audience see how the main villain was so successful with his plan, but the pre-apocalyptic tale really doesn't matter in this novel.  We're there to watch how Gabe grows into a man and a leader, the pre-apocalyptic tale should have been a short story prequel for those who might want to read it.  Ultimately, we didn't need to know how the villain did it, just that he did.  The facts of how could have been flat-out told, or saved for a moment of clarity in a later book.

Okay, that may have come across as ranting, and I apologize if it did.  The fact of the matter is that despite these four issues (which are all subjective, anyway), I absolutely adored the experience with Gabe and Mags.  I read this book in one setting, unable to pull myself from the smooth prose and immersive detail.

And I do have a major thing I loved, too.  The author does a wonderful job with accents.  One of the characters has a very distinct accent, and the author spells it out in an easy way to begin with to give the audience an idea of how the character actually speak.  It's not over done (once in the beginning to introduce the character, and then sporadically throughout the rest of the novel, just a gentle nudge to ensure the audience remains aware of it).

The introduction of this character's speech is:

'... Them boys're just spoiling for a fight.'  Marv's from Hager, where apparently not all consonants have equal rights.  It comes out spawlin' firra faht.

The "equal rights" part led to immediate joy for me!  Wonderful work.
If you have any doubt, don't be bixicated!  Check it out on Amazon and see how smooth the prose reads.

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