Black Wolves — Discussion Thread

If you have any comments, questions, or requests for clarification you wish to address to me, or if you just wish to chat with me or other readers about Black Wolves, here is a space you can do so.

30 thoughts on “Black Wolves — Discussion Thread

  1. Hi Kate,

    I also love this series best of all of yours (up against stiff competition I know), so I’m still crawling through Black Wolves and re-reading Crossroads as well. I’ve spotted Kellas in Traitor’s Gate which was amusing – any more Easter Eggs there? I was about 4 chapters into BW when I twigged he was also in the short story in Best Of.

    Some musings:
    In my head the Hundred was much more idyllic and egalitarian than the re-read is showing me, which I assume is part of the long ongoing corruption of the guardians. Also I want to throw something everytime someone ie Anji mentions someone being a ‘demon’ because they are out of their comfort zone. Argh!

    Was the headwoman Kerit runs into in that horrible backstory section (which I couldn’t bring myself to re-read and had to skip most of it due to the heart wrenching sadness of her life) Anji’s ex wife?

    You mention that each hall should have 600 eagles. I wonder how the logistics of this works. There are about 70 horses at my stables and they take up a lot of room in terms of yards etc. I’m trying to imagine 600 horses who aren’t as territorial as eagles… It’s a bit like the Pern novels where I used to idly wonder how on earth those ginormous dragons were housed and fed more to the point, considering Ramoth was supposed to be the size of a jumbo jet.

    Anyway thanks again for the wonderful books.

  2. I also re-read Crossroads to prepare. I’ve loved the total Hundred immersion. 🙂

    I was interested to see a comment about early readers being a little divided on Lady Dannarah as a character (she was abrasive, unlikeable, something similar?) which I found surprising as I liked her quite a bit except could not tolerate her hero worship of her father (imo, Anji ruined The Hundred’s chance of autonomy by helping at the cost of conquering, makes me think of Joss asking if he, Anji, knew how to stop fighting… anyway…). It started to make me wonder if it wasn’t so much her in herself but simply her constant going on about how great Anji was. 🙂 Can’t wait to see what happens with her.

  3. Rachel, I agree with the folks who think Dannarah is abrasive. That’s what makes her entertaining to read about. I am so tired of 90% of female protagonists being interchangeable milksops that embody all the ideals of what a woman should be (not saying you want this, obviously, but from all the criticism you see of “unlikeable” female characters plenty of people do). A character of whom no valid criticism could be made is deadly boring to me, and unrealistic too.

  4. Trying this again having logged out as “Kate Admin” and back in as “Kate Elliott”

  5. Claire — Ha! Yes, I always knew Kellas (as per his appearance in Traitors’ Gate) was going to be a major character in the followup. And, yes, that is indeed him in the short story that appears in the collection. I am sure there are other Easter Eggs but I would have to look through more carefully — I also had to cut a few references because they ended up being tangents that weren’t really crucial to the story.

    Yes, the headwoman Kirya/Kirit runs into IS Anji’s first wife. Perhaps too coincidental but what the heck. I could not resist.

    The 600 eagles thing is wrong — I think it should be the halls have 600 total eagles at, more or less, any span of 5 years. But there are never anywhere near that many at any one hall at one time – they are either out on patrol or on duty at some manner of more isolated posting, etc.

  6. I specifically wanted to suggest that the Hundred was in certain ways more idyllic in the past (not counting the terrible civil war that happens during Crossroads) and in other ways that our memory lies to us, because of what we want to remember.

  7. Rachel — That’s a good point. I wonder if people who read Black Wolves who have NOT read Crossroads would find Dannarah’s hero worship of her father to come across in the same unpleasant way. I know people who have read Crossroads will likely find it grating (for good reason!), even though obviously Dannarah has only ever seen the best side of him.

  8. Emma, yes, this. Also, I really wanted to write a character who just does not care what other people think of her and that attitude is ALWAYS seen as threatening in a woman (if she does not seek or seem to need the approval of others). I had the best time writing her.

  9. I am listening to the audiobook (I started reading, but I can play games while listening). I wish I had realized this was back to Crossroads; I would have reread. As it is, I am still adoring the heck out of it. (And the audiobook narrator is excellent.) You just keep getting better as a writer, and you started out high, in my opinion.

  10. samk: Thank you so much. I worked hard to write Black Wolves so that a reader with no prior knowledge of Crossroads could enter it without problem (and so that no one has to re-read Crossroads to keep going).

    I’m excited to hear that the audiobook narrator is excellent. I haven’t heard anything but the brief online sample but it sounds good.

  11. Finally (sadly) finished BW. Loved it.

    I’m hard pushed to think of my favourite character. Dannarah is certainly up there. She is simply amazing in her ‘I don’t give a shit’ way. I totally understand her hero worship of Anji who had many admirable characteristics in his own way. Certainly it is easy to understand both why he felt the 100 needed a king, and those who were simply grateful to be saved. I’m loving the fact that she is unwillingly having to confront long held beliefs, and the fact she had her great nephew murdered. After the first section I had already concluded that I as king would have sanctioned a general massacre of queens, sons, eunuchs and priests!
    Sarai is also a character I can’t wait to meet again, particularly considering where we left her. I’m liking the parallels between her and Miravia (I’m also hoping to see more of her or her fate in the next books). I’m guessing unpleasant Aram Elder is a relative of unpleasant Nessumaran suitor of Miravia. The mystery of the coils and the Ri Amarah is fascinating.
    Gil is entertaining and Kellas is just awesome. The other younger characters I’m looking forward to seeing developed, and I can’t wait for more Mai, Arasit and guardians – particularly the unknown 5. In fact I just squee about it all. A glowing review has been left on Goodreads.

    Finally back on the subject of Eagles I raise you our native Wedge Tail Eagles.
    They already have wing spans of up to 2.7m, the females can weigh 5 kgs, and they work collaboratively to bring down adult kangaroos! I wouldn’t mess with these let alone anything bigger!

  12. Me again.

    Reading Court of Fives at the mo, which I have been saving, and I see that the Tandi are mentioned in passing. Shared world with Crossroads?

  13. Oh bittersweet; finished Black Wolves. (And when is the 2nd volume expected?)

    After being told that Black Wolves was not a sequel, but took place in same world, I was more than happily surprised to find that it was a continuation of the story of many of the characters from Crossroads. (I am hoping we might get to see a bit more of Marit, Joss, Mai, Kerit?)

    I love Dannarah. I am just assuming that she will fall in as ally to those working for freedom of the 100. I am enjoying reading complex older characters, still going strong, at 59 (& 70, Kellas). I am older myself now, and am awed by how, to me, you seem to have the older people’s POV so spot on (as you, Kate aren’t over 50 yet?). (I know I feel healthy & tough & wiley & more empowered, yet more creaky & needing to conserve energy more.) I will put it down to being such a good author.

    Off topic, but I loved, “The Very Best Of”, and especially the essays at the end. Also off topic, but, as I watched season 3 Vikings, last week, I kept thinking of the Crown of Stars world.

  14. Finished Black Wolves and then went on to binge-read Crossroads (yeah, all in the right order ^-^). Was curious if the name of Mai’s Clan (Plum Blossom) in Mar was connected to the endearment she and Anji used to share back when married, or just a coincidence?

  15. Claire — thank you for the link to Wedge Tail Eagles. I like to see more eagles who work in cooperation because, obviously, the eagles in the Hundred can’t be loners or they would not be able to function together.

    Also, one of the minor points I was trying to make with Dannarah is that she has learned many lessons from her father. Just as Anji used people like Kellas to do his dirty deeds, she uses Reyad the same way.

  16. Yes! The Tandi appear in both books although so far the only people who have noticed are those who read Black Wolves and THEN read Court of Fives. It’s such a passing mention in CoF that there is no reason the name would stick with you.

    It is a shared world because I am writing 2 series concurrently (tag team style), and I knew that while I could switch back and forth between STORIES, it would be much harder to switch back and forth between worlds. There is plenty of space for multiple epics, is my theory.

  17. Anna, thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed BW. There are a lot of points of correspondence but I have had to kind of “make a thing” of stating very very strongly that it isn’t a continuation lest new readers won’t pick it up. It does work without reference to Crossroads, although there are nuances there that people who have read Crossroads will pick up.

    No pub date for book 2 is set yet.

    And I have to say: I am over 50. My publicity photos were taken when I was 52 although I do need to update them now. 🙂

  18. Aliette — the best thing about reading Crossroads is that it gives you a very different view of Anji than the one you get from Dannarah’s memories. 🙂

    Yes, indeed. Plum blossom does refer back to Mai’s home clan.

    Also, if you look at the Black Wolves cover (the final cover, not the early ones)? The 5 petaled flower is a stylized plum blossom.

  19. I just posted my 5 of 5 review on Goodreads and included a postscript asking for Anji’s family tree in future volumes. I would have loved to have that available in Black Wolves. Those sons! 🙂

    Any chance of a tree showing up on this site as an extra?

  20. I’m reading Black Wolves right now and am about a quarter of the way through. It’s slow progress because of too little reading time right now, but I’m enjoying it. I have to say the conclusion of chapter 16 was intensely satisfying to me, which probably means I’m a nasty, vindictive sort.

    I have not (yet) read Spirit Gate, so I do have a bit of confusion about the world building in places, especially re the relationship between the different ethnic groups, but I’ve mostly been able to piece things together.

  21. I want to add (hit save too soon) that this is my own problem for not reading SG before. And I enjoy having to guess or draw some conclusions about things myself. The most confusing bit was about the horns of the Ri Amarah and the whole thing re the Demons.

  22. I just finished BW this week. Loved it, see a lot of what happened in Crossroads coming around again: new authorities wiping away old traditions and pressing men into service, confusing developments gradually coalescing into war brewing, and judicious appearances by the Guardians–I mean, demons. Fingers crossed this also means we’ll see a lot more of the Guardians (and the rest of Team Plum Blossom) in later volumes, just as we did in Crossroads. Certainly I’m curious to hear what happened to Bai, and even Miravia (can she be far from Eiko, if she still lives?).

    Really impressed by the big mythology reveals toward the end. The Ri Amarah connection to the Guardian altars was building throughout the book, but the real meaning of “the Hundred” caught me by surprise (though I’d long taken it as more of an estimate than an accurate count of settlements, since that number must be changing all the time). I’m very much looking forward to learning how the “demon’s coils” connect the two cultures’ mythologies. The Four Mothers definitely seem a nicer group of primordial titans than the Imperators!

    Speaking of connections, I saw someone else noticed the Tandi connection between Co5 and BW, but I only just now went back and saw the titles of 2 of the unwritten Jaran books are _The Golden Road_ and _Sorrowing Tower_–names which meant nothing to me when I first saw them years ago (in defense of my forgetfulness, I think _The Golden Road_ used to be _The Gift of Memory_, a gift I apparently lack since I’d also forgotten that the Golden Road on Rhui actually figured in the Jaran novels), but now they shout the Hundred at top volume. I knew Crossroads was slyly conceived as Rhuian epic fantasy, but how Rhuian is the setting meant to be? Does this world about which we’re reading bear the same relationship to Rhui that the worlds of _Crown of Stars_ and _Spiritwalker_ bear to Earth? (Are the Imperators Chapalii? …just kidding …I think.)

    Happy Thanksgiving to all (as appropriate)!

  23. Keith, thank you so much.

    I have a hand drawn and very extensive family tree but I need to figure out a way to create a file that I can upload. There’s no reason I can’t start a page with specific information like this.

  24. Erica, no worries: I get a lot more nasty and vindictive later . . . 🙂

    I do know what you mean about the world building. I worked really hard to make Black Wolves readable as is, with no prior knowledge, and I think it works well as a new novel. It’s also true that if you know the history (i.e. Crossroads) that some things you’re introduced to will have a somewhat different meaning to you as a reader than what the story is telling you, because you have knowledge of the past. But I guess that is part of what the book is about.

  25. Christopher, there will indeed be more with Team Plum Blossom in book two.

    My personal narrative is that the Crossroads books are a fantasy saga being written by a Rhuian, so they would fit into the sf history as any historical fantasy novel would fit into ours — “real” history interlaced with fantastical imaginings. The real reason I did it is that I have long been fond of that thing where writers link all their worlds (although I do not link ALL of mine, just some of them), and also because really thorough detailed world building takes a long time, and this gives me a bit of a short cut while allowing for a very different feel.

  26. So would hypothetical Rhuian readers recognize some specific places in these stories, as we recognize places in Crown of Stars or Spiritwalker? Or would they only see the general influence of their culture(s), as we do in reading Tolkien? I’m guessing the former, since you say “historical fantasy” and the Golden Road sounds like a pretty specific place name. (Ulterior motive: in addition to commentary on Rhuian cultural evolution, can we learn any qualitative Rhuian geography through these stories?)

    And have we already seen which culture(s) on Rhui uses Sorrowing Towers? (If so, and it’s my memory which is at fault, this sounds like a good excuse for some re-reading.)

    I’m all on board with the meta-backstory, apologies if my follow-ups constitute badgering 🙂

  27. Hypothetical Rhuians would absolutely recognize place names and historical figures and mythological/legendary figures.

    Sorrowing towers are part of the religious tradition of the Hundred, who lay out their dead in the open air and let the wind, rain, and vultures/animals consume the flesh until only the bones are left.

  28. Most writers I know are ecstatic to get to talk about this kind of stuff. Especially because our families are quite bored of us . . . .

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