Complex family and social conflicts clutter the pages of this scattershot romp from World Fantasy Award-winner Millar (The Good Fairies of New York). Kalix MacRinnalch, a poorly socialized, laudanum-addicted teenage werewolf, has violently assaulted her father, thereby adding "outcast" to her list of defining traits. Suddenly and inexplicably supported by two preternaturally patient new friends, Daniel and Moonglow, the young werewolf skulks around London and struggles with anxiety and eating disorders while scores of subplots merrily explode around her. As Kalix's relatives bicker and backstab to establish a new leader, a cast of thousands shoehorns its way into the narrative, stealing story space for a sorcerous fashion designer with spy problems, werewolf twins with a terrible punk band that can't get a gig and a romantically mercenary transvestite. Overly reliant on luck and coincidence and populated by unsympathetic characters with unconvincing motives, Millar's urban fantasy epic swiftly dissolves into a tragedy of contrived errors. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Lonely Werewolf Girlby Martin Millar
While teenage werewolf Kalix MacRinnalch is being pursued through the streets of London by murderous hunters, her sister, the Werewolf Enchantress, is busy designing clothes for the Fire Queen. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, the MacRinnalch Clan is plotting and feuding after the head of the clan suddenly dies intestate. As the court intrigue threatens to… See more details below
While teenage werewolf Kalix MacRinnalch is being pursued through the streets of London by murderous hunters, her sister, the Werewolf Enchantress, is busy designing clothes for the Fire Queen. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, the MacRinnalch Clan is plotting and feuding after the head of the clan suddenly dies intestate. As the court intrigue threatens to blow up into all-out civil war, the competing factions determine that Kalix is the swing vote necessary to assume leadership of the clan. Unfortunately, Kalix isn’t really into clan politics laudanum’s more her thing. Even more unfortunately, Kalix is the reason the head of the clan ended up dead, which is why she’s now on the lam in London. . . This expansive tale of werewolves in the modern world friendly werewolves, fashionista werewolves, troubled teenage werewolves, cross-dressing werewolves, werewolves of every sort is hard-edged, hilarious, and utterly believable.
- Soft Skull Press, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.60(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 17 Years
Read an ExcerptLONELY WEREWOLF GIRL
By MARTIN MILLAR
Soft Skull Press Copyright © 2007 Martin Millar
All right reserved.
Chapter One Kalix was lost. Tired, nervous, unable to focus, and lost. And now it was raining. She had padded her way down street after cold street, looking for the empty warehouse that was her temporary home but the streets all looked the same and she was beginning to despair.
The cold rain quickly soaked through her hair which trailed, thick, long and dank, round her bony hips. Kalix was skinny, thin like a reed, not an ounce of fat to show for her seventeen years of existence: a werewolf without an appetite. How her family had hated that. Her mother used to plead with her, beg her to eat. Until last year when Kalix attacked her father, lord of the werewolves. Now her mother had more to worry about than her daughter's poor appetite, or her violent temper, or her addictions, or her madness.
Kalix's hair, never cut, hung down to her hips. As the rain flattened it around her head her ears showed through. Her ears were never entirely normal even when, as now, she was in human form. There was something wolf-like about them, naturally.
Kalix stopped, and sniffed. Were the hunters close? She couldn't tell. Her senses were dulled. She hurried on. If the hunters caught up with her now, when she was weak, they might kill her. Kalix wondered what it would be like to be dead. Good, she thought. Better than living in an abandoned warehouse, begging for money to feed her addiction. But she wished she'd managed to kill her father. Then, she thought, she might have died satisfied.
Were she to die, she would die alone. Kalix MacRinnalch had always been alone. She'd never had a friend. She had two brothers, a sister, and many cousins; all werewolves, but none of them friends. She hated her brothers. She hated them almost as much as she hated her father. As for her sister, the Werewolf Enchantress, Kalix didn't hate her. She almost looked up to her. Had the Enchantress ever given her encouragement, Kalix might even have liked her. But the Enchantress had long ago distanced herself from the family and had no time for a sister born so many years after her, a sister who was famed from a young age as a source of trouble.
In fairness to the Enchantress, she had given Kalix the pendant which protected her. While wearing the pendant Kalix remained undetectable. She was free to scavenge on the streets of London, untroubled by the members of her family who wanted to drag her home to Scotland to face the vengeance that the attack on her father demanded. Free from the attentions of the hunters who wanted to kill her with silver bullets. Free from all harassment. It had been good while it lasted but Kalix, inevitably, had sold the pendant to raise money. Now her enemies were closing in.
Kalix pulled her ragged coat tightly round her thin frame. She shivered. When Kalix was five years old she could run naked in the snow and not feel the cold. Now she had lost her resistance. She longed to be back in the warehouse. It was empty, with nothing to make it comfortable, but it was some sort of shelter. When she reached it she could fill herself with laudanum and sink into dreams. Not many people remembered laudanum these days. It was almost gone from the world. For a few werewolves, sunk in degeneracy like Kalix, it was still obtainable. It was a further disgrace that Kalix brought on her family.
Footsteps sounded from round the corner. Kalix tensed though she knew it was not the hunters. Just two young men walking home at midnight. As soon as they caught sight of her they headed her way, intent on not letting her pass. Kalix attempted to step round them but they moved quickly to intercept her.
"Hey skinny girl," said one of the men, and they both laughed.
Kalix regarded them with loathing. It infuriated her the way drunken human males would always try and talk to her.
"Going home on your own?"
Kalix had no time to waste. She needed to find her warehouse before she collapsed from exhaustion. She growled. Even in human form, Kalix's growl was a terrifying sound, a lupine howl so chilling it seemed impossible it could come from her slender frame. The young men, startled by its ferocity, leapt to one side and regarded her uncomfortably as she hurried past.
"Freak," they muttered, but quietly, and went on their way.
After sixty years in England, mainly in the fashion industry, Thrix, the Werewolf Enchantress, had mostly discarded her Scottish accent. It was only really noticeable when her voice was raised in anger. Thrix was unconcerned at the loss. It further distanced her from her family and this was to her liking. The thought of her father the Thane, roaming the grounds of his castle in the remote wilds of Scotland, still made her purse her lips with distaste.
Whilst not displeased to be a werewolf, and a member of the MacRinnalch ruling family at that, Thrix did not like to associate with others of her kind. Others of her kind always meant problems. The malevolence of her uncles, the plotting of her mother, the machinations of her brothers, all these Thrix avoided. The MacRinnalch Werewolf Clan could tear itself to pieces so long as they all left her alone.
Thrix was unique among the Scottish werewolves. She was blonde, beautiful, the owner of a fashion house, and a powerful user of sorcery. No other werewolf could claim as much. The dazzling blonde hair alone had always been enough to set her apart from the rest of her clan. She was vain about this, which she knew.
A huge mirror covered the wall by Thrix's desk. She studied her reflection while talking on the phone.
"Cassandra, what are you doing in Portugal? You know I need you here for the shoot."
Thrix listened while the model related some tortuous story of missed planes and unreliable photographers.
"Fine, Cassandra," she interrupted. "It all sounds terrible. Now get back to London. Your ticket will be waiting for you at the airport."
Thrix put down the phone. Models. Not the most organised group of people, she found, though generally she liked them. Not as much as she liked the clothes, of course. The Werewolf Enchantress truly loved clothes in a way that had always mystified her family.
Thrix looked at the message on her desk. Her mother had called. Why? Surely Verasa was not expecting her to visit? Thrix had been at Castle MacRinnalch only six months ago and her mother knew that she would never visit more than once a year.
The Werewolf Enchantress studied herself in the mirror. She looked around thirty, perhaps a year or two younger. She was in fact almost eighty years old. Her youthful appearance was not the result of sorcery. The MacRinnalchs were very long lived, and eighty was still young for a werewolf. Thrix was enjoying her life. Her fashion house's reputation was growing steadily. If everything went to plan she would one day be one of the major players on the European fashion scene.
What did her mother want? Thrix sighed. No matter how she tried to distance herself from the clan, Verasa, the Mistress of the Werewolves, would never admit that she was gone. A troubling thought floated across her mind. Could her mother be calling about Kalix? There was a time when Verasa had never been off the phone about Kalix. Even before her savage attack on the Thane, life hadn't been easy for the youngest member of the family. Thrix affected not to care - she had left Castle MacRinnalch long before Kalix was born - and why the Thane and the Mistress of the Werewolves had chosen to have another child almost one hundred and fifty years after the birth of their first was a mystery - but she had some sympathy for Kalix. Life in the Scottish castle hadn't been easy. Not for a young girl anyway. No wonder it drove Kalix mad.
Kalix shouldn't be in trouble with the family. Not when Thrix had discreetly provided her with the pendant which hid her from the world. Even when she transformed into her werewolf shape, and her scent was most distinctive, she would remain hidden. She was safe to do whatever she wished which, as far as Thrix could see, was destroy herself at the earliest opportunity.
Her assistant buzzed through to let her know that the call she had been waiting for was here. A very fashionable photographer who Thrix was keen to enlist for an upcoming shoot. She clicked on the speaker phone and prepared to be at her persuasive best. Before she could launch into her speech, the door burst open. This was unexpected. Ann, her personal assistant, was much too efficient to let her be disturbed unannounced.
"Prepare to die, cursed Enchantress."
It was the Fire Queen. Flames were flickering around her eyes.
"You have angered the Fire Queen once too often, you perfidious werewolf! I am going to roast you over a fire then send you off to the deepest pits of hell where you will suffer a millennium of torment!"
"I'll call you back," she said, and hung up the phone.
Kalix was trembling. It was a long time since she had tasted laudanum and Kalix's shameful addiction was very strong. Dizziness overwhelmed her and she halted to catch her breath. The rain intensified. She shook her head to clear it and hurried on. Finally she recognised the street she was in. Not far now to the warehouse. As she turned the last corner she halted. Someone was close. Hunters. Seconds after registering their presence Kalix found herself confronted by two large figures dressed in black. Without the strength to flee, Kalix could only stand motionless as they advanced towards her. The light from the street lamp glinted on the ring that pierced her nose, a gold ring through her left nostril that was rather prominent, a size larger than would commonly be worn.
The hunters towered over her and their immense bulk cut off most of the light.
"If your father is Thane of the werewolves and you're just a little werewolf girl -"
"- a puny little junky werewolf girl -"
"- it doesn't pay to aggravate him, and get yourself banished."
The larger of the two men drew a gun from the depths of his coat.
"It's stupid of you to walk around here."
"I am stupid," muttered Kalix.
"Really, wolf whelp, you deserve to die."
"I know," said Kalix.
"And when you're dead, no one will miss you."
"It's true," said Kalix, quietly. And it was. It was all true. She deserved to die and no one would miss her.
The hunters gazed with dislike at the skinny, ragged, trembling figure, seventeen years in the world, without a friend to her name, not a single soul who would be sad to learn that she was gone. Kalix gazed down at her feet, at the cracked and broken boots she wore, now letting in water as the rain poured down from the black sky.
"I like it better when they fight," muttered the second hunter, drawing his gun. "Let's do it."
Kalix dragged her gaze up from her boots to the face of the larger man. She spoke, quite softly.
"I'll kill you."
The hunters laughed.
"You'll kill us? What with? Your werewolf strength?"
"You can't transform. No full moon, dummy," said the second hunter, pointing at the sky where the crescent of an old moon showed through a break on the clouds. Both hunters raised their weapons, preparing to fire silver bullets through the young werewolf's heart. Kalix thought, as she often did, how pleasant it would be to die, and end it all on this bleak London street. But somehow, she just couldn't do it. As the hunters raised their guns she transformed in a split second from helpless adolescent runaway into the savage, bestial, werewolf who'd killed hunters from one end of Britain to the other, who'd torn the very gates from the prison the clan had held her in after she almost killed the Thane. Before the hunters had time to squeeze their triggers they were torn apart, shredded by the unparalleled savagery that had been both a gift and a curse to the lonely werewolf girl.
It was over in seconds. Kalix let out a frightful howl then shuddered as she reverted back into human form. She looked down bleakly at the carnage beneath her. Already the rain was washing the blood away.
"I don't need the full moon," she muttered. "I belong to the werewolf royal family."
Kalix breathed deeply to halt the shuddering, then set off along the dark street, disappearing down the first alley she came to.
Kalix wished that she was someone else. She had an elaborate fantasy in which her true parents had abandoned her at birth, leaving her at the mercy of the MacRinnalch Clan. Either that or she had been stolen away as a baby and sold to the Thane. Her favourite fantasy involved her being the secret love child of one of the Runaways, preferably Joan Jett.
'Joan Jett could well be my mother,' thought Kalix, sometimes. Except Joan Jett wasn't a werewolf, as far as anybody knew.
Her nomadic ways meant that Kalix had very few possessions. All she owned were her ragged clothes, an ancient walkman for playing tapes, and a bag for carrying her pills and her laudanum. Her clothes came from charity shops. Her boots were full of holes and her coat was worn and filthy.
Kalix had been taking laudanum for some years. Laudanum was an opium derivative dissolved in alcohol. She'd first bought it from MacDoig the Merchant, a strange character who regularly appeared at Castle MacRinnalch with fabulous goods for sale, goods from various realms, some of them not of this world. He was a man of some power who'd long outlived the normal short human span, and in that time travelled where few others had. Somewhere along the way, he'd located a supply of laudanum which he sold to anyone desperate for relief from their suffering. Kalix's mother, the Mistress of the Werewolves, would have killed the MacDoig if she'd learned what he was selling to her youngest daughter. It was not cheap, and Kalix had learned to steal to finance her needs. Since she'd arrived in London she'd bought the liquid from the Young MacDoig, who carried on his father's business in the South. That was why she no longer had her pendant. She'd swapped it to the Young MacDoig for laudanum.
As for Kalix's walkman, she only had two tapes, both by the Runaways: their eponymous first album, and Live in Japan. Kalix loved the Runaways even though both these albums had been recorded before she was born. She had a picture of the band, torn from a newspaper. Once, when a young man had tried to deface it she'd bitten his hand so hard he'd had to go to hospital to have it stitched together. That was while Kalix was in human form. Even as a human, Kalix was a ferocious opponent. As a werewolf she was abnormally strong, and when the battle-madness came over her, she was murderously savage.
Kalix had once gone to an internet café to hunt for information about the Runaways but she found very little. Not that much had been written about them and what there was, Kalix could barely read. Although the MacRinnalch werewolves were well educated as a rule, Kalix's peculiar background had left her almost illiterate. But it seemed to her, from the few sentences she could understand, that her favourite band had never been very successful. This baffled Kalix, and angered her, and made her hold the world in even greater contempt.
Kalix's bed was a bundle of old sacks. The abandoned warehouse was damp and the cold chilled her bones. Occasionally when night fell she would change into her werewolf shape just to gain warmth from her thick coat. As a purebred werewolf of the MacRinnalch Clan, Kalix could do this any night she chose, but it was hazardous now that she no longer had her pendant for protection. Changing into werewolf form made her easier to detect.
Kalix hadn't eaten for many days. This was good. Kalix didn't like to eat. There was no one here to tell her she had to. She might never eat again and no one could make her. Buoyed by this happy thought the young werewolf buried herself under the sacks and drifted off to sleep to dream about Gawain. Gawain was the most handsome of werewolves, and he had once been her lover. On her fourteenth birthday she'd crept into his bed at Castle MacRinnalch and after that they were never out of each other's company. They had a year of insane joy before he was banished. Kalix yearned to see him again, but she knew he was never coming back.
The Fire Queen, whose extreme beauty existed somewhere between a Babylonian death goddess and an Asian supermodel, advanced towards Thrix's desk, fire smouldering in her eyes.
"Prepare to suffer appalling and dreadful torments, you treacherous werewolf!"
Thrix raised one eyebrow.
"What exactly is the problem, Malveria?"
The Fire Queen reached back into the depths of her nether realm and dragged forth a pair of red high heeled shoes. She slammed them onto Thrix's desk.
Excerpted from LONELY WEREWOLF GIRL by MARTIN MILLAR Copyright © 2007 by Martin Millar. Excerpted by permission.
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