Pet the Wolf at Your Own Risk

Join me today in consoling and appreciating author Peter Blaisdell.  His SPFBO7 entry joined 289 other non-finalists a while back, although The Weatherwax Report did call The Lords of the Summer Season “one of the better written books in my batch” and added that it had “one of the most dramatic openings of the books in my pile.”

When asked to describe a secondary character in The Lords of the Summer Season who insisted on a larger role, Blaisdell offered a new twist. His upstart is an animal, and quite a ferocious one at that.

My SPFBO 7 entrant, THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3kMDESe ), is a fantasy set during San Francisco’s ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967. It’s about an almost immortal magician and a witch who have a long, fraught relationship through history and, because of a series of misfortunes, wind up together in 1967 in San Francisco. That summer, everything seemed limitless – until it wasn’t, so what better place for themes of attraction and creativity run amok than flower-power drenched, psychedelic San Francisco when magic was real?

Anyway, the protagonist, Bradan, faces horrific threats in the story, but he also has one constant and fearsome friend: the wolf Tintagel (Bradan named him after King Arthur’s birthplace).

Tintagel started out as a side character, but as I wrote THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON, the wolf shrugged off the pet role and evolved into an embodiment of nature’s mysterious, atavistic, and implacable qualities. Whatever I wanted as the author, this character didn’t want to fit into typical fantasy clichés! Tintagel isn’t a werewolf; he’s perfectly happy being a wolf. In fact, he’s contemptuous of people. Sometimes, he’s even contemptuous of Bradan. Also, unlike many fantasy animal companions, this wolf doesn’t start out fierce, but then become mellow and cuddly as the story progresses. He’s ferocity incarnate from beginning to end. His essential character never changes, never softens. And Bradan is always on sufferance.

Perhaps the wolf’s one humanizing feature is a sardonic sense of humor – usually at Bradan’s expense. But then again, who really knows what Tintagel thinks? That’s part of his charm.

A brief quote in the novel highlights this. It’s from a flashback to the early 6th century when the wizard, Merlin, introduces Bradan to Tintagel:

The huge beast sat nonchalantly on its haunches beside Merlin with the rising sun outlining the pair in rose-violet light.

“You made a friend—sort of,” Merlin said to Bradan. The wizard looked amused. So did the wolf. “Don’t take him for granted,” Merlin continued. “Ever. He’d eat your flesh in a heartbeat and do worse to your soul.”

Now Bradan stared at the wolf. His earlier impression of utter savagery was confirmed. Full morning had come, but the creature sucked up the ambient light like a vortex drawing all the illumination near him into a shadowy netherworld. Even without hearing of the creature’s former vocation as a sort of ghoul chaperoning souls to the afterlife, Bradan found the wolf a fearsome entity.

“This is my new helpmate?” Bradan asked.

“It’s good to have allies in disordered times,” Merlin said. “How could it harm you?”

“Well, he could tear my head off.”

“Come on, pet him,” Merlin said. “He may bite, but we’ll hope for the best.”

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