Early Review: The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear

The Tempering of Men (Iskryne World #2) by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth BearHow did I get it: I was able to borrow an ARC from The (Hopeful) Librarian. The Tempering of Men comes out on August 16.

Why did I read it: I enjoyed A Companion to Wolves, the first book in the Iskyrne series, and I was chomping at the bit to see what happened next. (This title will also count towards my Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge for 2011.)

How I would rate it: 3.5 out of 5 stars.


In Iskryne, the war against the Trollish invasion has been won, and the lands of men are safe again…at least for a while. Isolfr and his sister, the Konigenwolf Viradechtis, have established their own wolfhaell. Viradechtis has taken two mates, and so the human pack has two war leaders. And in the way of the pack, they must come to terms with each other, must become brothers instead of rivals–for Viradechtis will not be gainsaid.

She may even be prescient.

A new danger comes to Iskryne. An army of men approaches, an army that wishes to conquer and rule. The giant trellwolves and their human brothers have never hunted men before. They will need to learn if they are to defend their homes.

Review:  What both authors gave me was well worth reading and waiting for and everything about the book was solid and well-executed. And yet while virtually every page had something for me to highlight, applaud, commend, and/or appreciate in terms of writing or world-building skills… There just wasn’t a lot that I could just flat-out love, gush, and/or rant about in a happy, gleeful way.

For example, I appreciated the importance of the wolves as well as the men as individuals because I feel like that definitely made them all vivid and believeable. But I didn’t love –or even like– being relentlessly teased over and over again with the promise of the possibility of something happening between the male human characters gaining more forward momentum or at least a focus. 

Since finishing A Companion to Wolves over a year ago I had been very eager to learn what had happened with Isoflr, Skjaldwulf, and Vethulf. The results were certainly interesting and very well done over all, but I found a lot of the side effects to be quite an unwelcome, disappointing surprise. For one thing, Isolfr was even less likable here in the second book than he ever was in A Companion to Wolves and nothing was really even from his point of view. Even when I got over the fact that the three of them were never going to have a very worthwhile relationship all together, Skjaldwulf was constantly very far away somewhere and had maybe two scenes total with Vethulf. Two great scenes, mind you, but I wouldn’t have minded more of them. 

Similarly, I wanted to see more of whatever was going on between Brokklfr and Kari at the beginning but that too went in a very different direction than I’d hoped. which isn’t the same thing as not liking what the authors did, but I find it extremely tragic that the one book where I would have liked something romantic to be allowed to flourish was the one book where it was never allowed to really do so. I know there were hints of that or even the occasional interlude, but I didn’t find that to be particularly satisfying.

I also have to note that the original terms which, while interesting, were sort of jarring as they were used rather relentlessly throughout the length of this fairly short novel. I already know beyond a shadow of a doubt that both authors are accomplished and skilled. I already know that the world they’re writing about is, quite literally, made of awesome. I also know I feel quite idiotic even bringing this up but having every single page littered with original terms in addition to original names I couldn’t pronounce or often tell apart in some cases gave me a headache. So while this might not bother other readers, I have to admit that this aspect of the writing and world-building definitely kept me from ever getting completely lost or immersed in the story.

In conclusion, The Tempering of Men was quite good. It was quite frustrating too, but I still think the Iskyrne series is worth checking out if only for the world Monette & Bear have created. I definitely think that the third book has the potential to be totally awesome given what happened in the second book and I’ll be eager to revisit Iskryne once it comes out.

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About April

I'm a librarian, reader, and writer whose main goal in life is to be able to swim in books the way Scrooge McDuck swims in money. Although my reading choices will always be wildly eclectic and I never plan on leaving any genre unexplored, my favorite reads tend to be Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Gay Romance, or Historical Fiction. You can e-mail me at inspector[dot]librarian[at]gmail[dot]com.
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2 Responses to Early Review: The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear

  1. This sounds like a tough book to review. But you did a wonderful job of sharing your feelings of it. Sorry it wasn’t as much to love as the first book, but so glad you enjoyed it and going on with the series.

  2. Pingback: Review of The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

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