Forget romance, bromance steals the show in this heart-pounding book.
AUTHOR: C.M. Banschbach
AGE RAGE: 13+
A man born for war. A bastard raised in contempt. Only together can they defend their tribe from slaughter.
Fierce-hearted Comran is the chief's son and the favored choice to be the next leader. Then his father chooses Comran's half-brother Etran for the role, straining the loyalties of the tribe and reinforcing the distance between the two men. When Comran is offered the role of battlewolf, he is ready to do his duty–but expects no friendship in return.
Steady Etran has long been shunned as the chief's bastard. Becoming the chief brings even more hostility, so he offers Comran the title of battlewolf to maintain tribal unity. But can he trust this reckless warrior as his general when Comran has never stood by his side?
As tensions mount within the tribe, a traitorous act leads to war. Comran and Etran must overcome their inner demons and fight for their brotherhood before the Greywolves fall to their worst enemies.
The Nordic setting, family loyalties, and wolf-riders combine in my first five-star read of this season. If you have been on my blog before, you probably know I love C.M. Banschbach's books–and one of her latest releases is no exception. In these cold months, Greywolf’s Heart is the perfect book to read by the fire as it sends you into a world of warring clans, tenuous family ties, and wild frozen territories. And they ride giant wolves. Giant wolves. If that’s not a compelling reason to read this book, I don’t know what is.
PLOT & WORLDBUILDING:
While this is the first book in a duology, it ties up all loose ends for this plot. Etran and Comran’s story starts with the brothers at odds. Raised as rivals for the name of Chief, they were never friends, let alone brothers. Etran’s level-headedness ultimately wins him the position, but as the clan is approaching civil war and word is that the ruthless Saber Tribe has again awakened to slaughter them all, Etran names Comran his battle-wolf: the second highest position next to Chieftain. Despite the years of tension, the half-brothers put aside their resentment to prevent the clan’s extinction. But after a near-successful attempt on Etran’s life, the brothers realize that a threat not only comes from the outside but also from within their people. The story continues through betrayals, sacrifices, battles, and secrets. The plot moves along a consistent-but-unpredictable trail before hitting you like a battle club with the last several chapters. I had no idea how they were going to get out of that one chapter...
The world-building was satisfying to read with the mixes of Celtic, Nordic, and even some Native-American influences, along with some underlying Christian themes. The many tribes that inhabit the world were all uniquely distinct from their fighting styles to their traditional cultures. The many battles were vivid and clearly written, which I highly appreciated as oftentimes fantasy authors struggle to write such scenes without completely confusing the reader. Overall, Greywolf’s Heart was evenly plotted and left you wanting more.
As usual, C.M. Banschbach crafts her characters with individuality and her brand of snark. Hot-headed and brash but undyingly loyal, Comran is a superb example of a chaotic good character. What he might lack in tact, he makes up for in courage. Growing up, he believed that he would likely be the one taking on the title of chieftain, and when he is denied that, it rocks him. However, he realizes that Etran is the best one for the job. So, when he is asked by his halfbrother to be the battle wolf, true to his nature, he vows to protect Etran’s life with his own–even if it means breaking old friendships and knocking on death’s door more than once. His loyalty and fierce dedication to those he loves far outweigh his hot-headed faults.
Etran was always the outcast. Even though he is fully recognized as not only the son of the chief but a future heir, he faced constant scorn and anger from the tribe because of his illegitimate birth. Bravery may be Comran’s virtue, but level-headedness and wise judgment are Etran’s. The role of Chief falls heavily on his shoulders and Etran bears it with steady strength. As war and destruction threaten his people, no one could mistake his gentle heart for weakness when he joins his soldiers on the battlefield. But his rough upbringing leaves him with plenty of insecurities and it takes time for him to realize his full capabilities and worth.
As previously stated, illegitimate birth is a key theme in Greywolf’s Heart. When it seemed that his wife would not bear an heir, the Chief had an affair with another clan's woman to preserve the line. Unbeknownst to him, his wife was already pregnant with Comran. Both brothers are roughly the same age, hence making them both heirs. This is briefly discussed, but it remains an unavoidable plot point. There are also two side-plot romances, both of which are rather different from each other and very clean. I believe there are a few brief kisses. Of course, you have a fair share of violence, including torture, but little gore and mild language–what you might find in a Marvel movie. Despite the low content, the book does feature adult characters and mature themes which may be difficult for a younger teen reader to enjoy.
The resentment and indifference built between the brothers is slowly chipped away as they fight beside each other and their bond is forged. As someone who will take excellent sibling relationships over romantic relationships any day, I loved Greywolf’s Heart. The vivid and unique world-building blends perfectly with the spectacular action scenes. Add a dose of C.M. Banschbach’s signature snark, and you have a perfect read, especially in these colder months. We may not be able to ride giant wolves and wild cats into battle, but there is nothing stopping us from reading about them!