science fiction and fantasy book reviewsYorath the Wolf by Cherry Wilder fantasy book reviewsYorath the Wolf by Cherry Wilder

Warning: May contain spoilers for A Princess of the Chameln

One of the mysteries laid out in Cherry Wilder’s A Princess of Chameln is the identity and whereabouts of Aidris’s cousin, the child of Elvedegran, her mother’s sister and the queen of Mel’Nir. The common understanding is that, because of a monstrous birth defect, the child and the mother both died. However, late in A Princess of Chameln, Aidris receives news that confirms her mother’s deathbed prophecy: Elvedegran’s child lives.

Yorath, the titular character of Yorath the Wolf (1984), the second in the RULERS OF HYLOR series, is that child. He is saved by Hagnild the court physician and raised in the woods, in obscurity and ignorance of his own heritage. His childhood is checkered; at times he lives in security and comfort with Hagnild. At other times, he is sent to town to apprentice and, because of his looks, thrown into the street to live an urchin’s life. But, despite his birth defect, he grows up strong and larger than the men around him. He eventually becomes a soldier in a lower royal household, going on to fight in the wars over Mel’Nir and being confronted, at one point, with rulership himself.

While this book felt slower and more choppy to me than A Princess of Chameln, Wilder’s powers of description still made Yorath’s world come to life. His somewhat lonely childhood in the woods makes him blunt and uncomfortable with the manners and intrigues of court life. When he is faced with the possibility of taking his place as his father’s son, he makes a more interesting choice. And the scenes that end Yorath the Wolf are some of the most beautiful in either of these two works by Wilder.

It was also a pleasure to see some of the same characters from A Princess of Chameln appear in Yorath the Wolf, to see his particular impression of these people. Despite both being of royal blood and raised in hiding, Yorath is a very different person than Aidris. Since she was raised with knowledge of her role, she prepares to be queen, with all of the diplomatic training that implies. As Yorath’s epithet “the Wolf” suggests, he is a bit more natural and unsophisticated than his cousin. Which makes his gorgeous ending — in Wilder’s poetic, mythical prose — all the more perfect.

Published in 1984. Yorath, the son of a royal prince, was born with a deformity that marks him for death. The court physician saves him by convincing his family that he died shortly after birth and takes him to a distant forest where he thrives, unaware of his birthright and the dark prophecy that looms over him. But as he grows to manhood, Yorath can’t avoid being drawn into the violent conflict that plagues the land. Becoming a soldier, he rises through the ranks until he becomes a reluctant combatant in the struggle for the throne. Even as Yorath wields the power of a kingmaker, the ways of the court are as much anathema to him as the brutality of war. If he is ever to escape the violence and machinations he so despises, he has but one choice: He must confront his heritage or lose the land he has come to love and the peace he so cherishes.


  • Kate Lechler

    KATE LECHLER, on our staff from May 2014 to January 2017, resides in Oxford, MS, where she divides her time between teaching early British literature at the University of Mississippi, writing fiction, and throwing the tennis ball for her insatiable terrier, Sam. She loves speculative fiction because of what it tells us about our past, present, and future. She particularly enjoys re-imagined fairy tales and myths, fabulism, magical realism, urban fantasy, and the New Weird. Just as in real life, she has no time for melodramatic protagonists with no sense of humor. The movie she quotes most often is Jurassic Park, and the TV show she obsessively re-watches (much to the chagrin of her husband) is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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