January 13, 2013

The Night Has Teeth (The Magdeburg Trilogy Book One)

by Kat Kruger
Fierce Ink Press
294 pp.

The Night Has Teeth, and it has sharp edges and secrets and anger and judgement.  As the City of Light, Paris harbours enlightenment but sometimes in dark corners and in underlying worlds that extend beyond its catacombs.  Surprisingly, seventeen-year-old American Connor Lewis has chosen to spend his senior year here at the Victor Hugo International School.  Perhaps he might reinvent himself, becoming someone other than the boy who lost control of himself and bit a kid in kindergarten. 

Connor's host family is only one young woman, Amara Liang, a tattoo artist with a large dog named Lou.  Their paths rarely cross until Connor makes the acquaintance of two other students, Josh and Madison, and suddenly Amara and her boyfriend Arden seem to be everywhere.  Although Madison reveals that she and Josh no longer date after an incident at a campground in which Madison was almost killed, Josh is obviously still attracted to the cherry-redheaded girl and jealous of the attention that she gives Connor.  But the three friends continue to spend time together, going for sushi, playing Truth or Dare and clubbing, often encountering Amara and Arden.

After Arden defends them from a wolf attack, and Connor, Amara and Arden return to the apartment, Connor sees Amara in bed with Lou who is bandaged just as Arden had been.  Seems Lou (actually Loup i.e., French for wolf) is Arden in wolf-form and both he and Amara are werewolves, determined to protect Connor from a beautiful young woman, Boadicea Faelen, who is showing an interest in him.  Connor can't comprehend Boadicea's interest in a geeky gamer until Amara explains that they all sense something "different" about Connor related to lycanthropy.  Boadicea wants Connor for her dangerous boss, Henri Boguet, who 400 years ago led the people in attacks against the wolves before being bitten by Arden.  Now Boguet, one of the damned as neither werewolf or human, heads a biotech company intent on eradicating the werewolf genome and saving humanity from their disease and terror.

What follows is a dance of secrets and manipulation as Connor is pulled towards and away from three groups who all have some interest in him:  Madison and Josh; Amara, Arden and pack leader Roul; and Boadicea, Boguet and his men Trajan and Attila.  As he tries to sort through the information, often selective, that each shares with him, never knowing whom to trust, Connor replays the kindergarten biting incident and his reaction to it, wondering about his own nature and link to lycanthropy.

Although The Night Has Teeth has all the elements of other paranormal young adult books, it is unmatched to any I have read to date.  While the protagonists are teens dealing with issues of independence and self-recognition, there is none of the lightness of tone that is more typical of YA novels.  Yes, there is the awkwardness of teen romance, making new friends, making good decisions and relating to parents, guardians and other adults.  But there is a greater sense of gravitas, not seriousness really, but rather a sense of substance, that the story could be true.  Okay, I know that werewolves don't really exist (don't I?) but Kat Kruger has you believing that The Night Has Teeth provides an accurate account of Connor's experiences, even if somewhat surreal.  All I know is that when I finished The Night Has Teeth, (on two final sentences that will go down in my journal of best endings), I knew I would have to wait until Connor and Arden and the others resolve some issues before Kat Kruger could commit them to paper again. 
I'm wholly prepared for what lies ahead in this journey, because the wolf in the night has teeth.  It has claws, and it's me. (pg. 290)

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As an aside, the texture and colours of the cover make for a spectacular book jacket, particularly with the torn (clawed?) openings revealing the startling red with succinctly ominous text. Kudos to Fierce Ink Press' jacket designer for nailing this.  I would love to see Quill & Quire feature the development of The Night Has Teeth's cover on its Cover to Cover feature page.  Don't you agree?

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