The Wolf of Tebron is clearly a quest tale, but how many quests? I count at least three, and Joran is not aware of the other two until the tale's conclusion. First, Joran is on a quest to rescue his wife. That's the obvious one. It begins when Joran mistakes another woman for Charris and jumps to the conclusion that she has been unfaithful. Mistaken identity is usually the stuff of comedy, but Lakin turns it to adventure and near tragedy. When Joran concludes that Charris is unfaithful, he feels a rush of negative emotions with anger, despair, and fear--the three keys--leading the way. His anger burns at Charris's betrayal. He despairs at the shamble of his marriage and fears what the future will bring, certainly nothing good. Joran's journey transforms him by forcing him to confront and subdue these emotions which, left unchecked, would overpower him. He cannot forgive Charris, forgive himself, or truly love until he looses the keys.
The second is Joran's quest to find himself, to discover who he is. Lakin leaves many hints along the way for the reader and Joran that Joran is not whom he believes himself to be. The prologue tells the story of a wizard who returns home from battle pursued by some malevolent force. It captures the wizard's wife but he manages to save his infant son. The wizard enlists a bear to hide the child. The Goose Woman, who has such a particular interest in Joran, refers to him often as a bear cub. We learn much later in the narrative that the bear took the infant to the Goose Woman who took it to Joran's "parents." The South Wind gives Joran a vision of his dying father beseeching his brothers to keep the secret from Joran. When the dead wolf Ruyah transforms to the wizard, Joran fully understands his identity, the source of his gifts for mindspeaking, and his ability to trap his wife with his anger. The death of Ruyah and his resurrection as the wizard is a novel look at patricide. It appears that Joran must let go of or release his father in order to find him, a concept that meshes neatly with the loosing of the three keys.
The third is the wizard's quest to acquire a sunstone, which he believes he can use to defeat the dark, malevolent force that has captured his wife. Sola tells Joran that the sunstone contains all the Sun's light, but the "stone can only be wielded by a pure heart void of all anger. A heart with no darkness. No human has ever been able to unlock its power" (p. 134). As the wizard explains to Joran at the tale's conclusion, he now has a new heart since his original heart, which had been darkened like all human hearts, was given to chase away the Moon. The wizard will therefore be able to wield the sunstone. The wizard seems to now be a Christ-like figure, a sinless being who can rescue humanity from the evil that assails it. It is not clear if that is the interpretation that Lakin intends. I find this quest troubling. The focus of the story has been Joran's psychological growth and transformation as he overcomes his weaknesses. Up to this point in the story, Ruyah appears to be acting selflessly for Joran's benefit out of parental love. Now we learn that Ruyah has another motive, the acquisition of a sunstone, which is of no use to Joran in his quest. In Lakin's defense, I assume the wizard and the sunstone play a part in subsequent books in the series and it will appear integral once she assembles the entire story.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
To read more about C. S. Lakin and her writing, visit her web site at http://www.cslakin.com/ and her blog at http://cslakin.blogspot.com/.
To learn what the other CSFF bloggers are saying, follow the links below: