Fred Wiehe’s latest novel Aleric: Monster Hunter is an ambitious book that ties fast paced action into well-researched gypsy custom.
The story focuses on Aleric Bimbai, a two hundred year old bounty hunter and gun for hire. He remains true to his gypsy roots, living outside the boundaries of conventional society and accepting dangerous missions that are presented to him.
One of the chief positives in this book is the central character Aleric. He embodies everything a good action hero should; he is strong, irresistible to women and a witty killing machine. Wiehe paints Aleric vividly creating a truly relatable character with an intriguing back-story. Another excellent addition to the cast is Aleric’s pet raven Odin, who mimics and mocks his way through scenes in Aleric’s home. The homage that Odin pays to Edgar Allan Poe is a particular highlight.
Throughout Aleric: Monster Hunter, Fred Wiehe does a superb job of embracing numerous aspects of gypsy tradition and well-known monster folklore. It is clear that Wiehe loves and respects the ‘classic’ monsters. Aleric encounters a werewolf, a vampire and a zombie within quick succession and with wildly varying outcomes.
The action sequences that frequently occur within the story are extremely kinetic and packed full of gore. The writing in these scenes is amongst the best in the book and Wiehe shows real flair when describing a monster getting cut down.
However, the plotting of Aleric: Monster Hunter is slightly confusing and Wiehe may have tried to pack too much into the novel. Whilst the ideas are all sound, as so many differing plot strands are trying to be balanced throughout, some of the motives and characters become vague and dull.
Whilst Aleric is a superb character a number of the peripheral characters such as his wife and lover are incredibly underdeveloped leaving the reader with little investment in their fate.
The book as a whole starts very strongly but begins to lag towards the end – there are a number of false endings and the narrative may have benefitted from being cut shorter. There is easily enough material in Aleric: Monster Hunter to have written more than one volume and sadly the quality of the story suffers some dilution towards in the latter stages.
Wiehe shows some superb characterisation through this story; Aleric is a truly epic hero. The respect and research that are evident in the folklore aspects of the book are certainly to be commended. Sadly the majority of this good work is undone by an overlong plot that hamstrings the book and turns the last few chapters into a chore. With better self-editing Wiehe could have made Aleric: Monster Hunter a superb tome rather than one that fizzles out before the finale.
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