The traditional werewolf legend is so firmly ingrained in our collective psyche that even the youngest children can recite the tale by heart: a full moon appears in the sky, a man howls…and by the light of that moon, he is transformed into a creature that stalks the wilderness.
We all know the deal. It’s a staple in horror fiction and spooky campfire stories, alike. So why are werewolves so overlooked?
Right off the bat, I’ll admit that the werewolf is probably my favorite of the classic supernatural monsters—but I’ve found most media portrayals of them to be fairly lacking. Lazy werewolf depictions are a dime a dozen, and this has resulted in an overall lowering of the werewolf’s standing in the great monster pantheon. Though werewolves certainly have the potential to become the new mainstream monster any day now – like vampires paved the way for zombies, zombies will eventually be usurped by a new big bad– werewolves are generally given the shaft. All too often, werewolves are relegated to being boss-style monsters, minor henchmen, or sometimes the pawns of vampires.
Really, werewolf mythology has been badly in need of an update for the last few decades, ever since An American Werewolf in London shook things up back in 1981.
But how does one approach werewolves in a whole new light? Is it possible? Is there still fresh, untapped blood in the legend?
After reading Errick Nunnally’s debut novel, Blood for the Sun, the answer is a resounding yes.
Blood for the Sun is the story of Alexander Smith, a werewolf—in the novel, referred to as a shapeshifter—of 140 years, who is now suffering from a supernatural mental ailment that causes him to continually become disoriented and/or lose pieces of his memory. Struggling to overcome the hungry carnivore inside him, Alexander keeps himself focused by tracking down the murderers of children and bringing them to justice. But when his investigation of one such murder leads him down the trail of a vast supernatural conspiracy, Alexander’s response will decide the fate of the world.
What immediately draws the reader into Blood for the Sun is how unique it is. Set in contemporary Boston, the book creates a world that believably sits right underneath our own. Though it uses familiar themes and mythological creatures, Nunnally’s take on them is intriguingly off-kilter, and all of the disparate elements of this new world fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Tired concepts are given new life. Shapeshifters are portrayed as the pack animals of the supernatural world; animalistic, hungry creatures barely contained within the body of the human being they occupy. Vampires are slick, wiry and reptilian, followed around by fetishistic followers. Wizards and witches are curious scientists with disturbing addictive tendencies. There’s even a fascinating take on the idea of dragons, a concept which rears its head in several of the book’s best scenes. Of course, the running thread through all of this is Alexander, and he proves to be one of the more interesting antiheroes in recent memory.
At the beginning, Blood for the Sun has the tone of a noir detective story with a dark supernatural bent, and this is what hooks us. Alexander is very much the grizzled veteran of the streets, and his narration forms a perfect introduction to the world that Nunnally has created. But as the story goes on, it evolves to be much more than that, with influences as far and wide as ancient Mayan mythology, horror, fantasy, superheroes and martial arts. Noir suddenly gives way to urban fantasy, and by the novel’s conclusion the story transports us to the realm of metaphysical science fiction. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish.
Somehow, it works. The concoction is expertly brewed. Blood for the Sun is a thinking man’s page turner, and leaves one breathlessly anticipating a sequel.