By Kit Whitfield
Lola May Galley is human. When the moon rises, she does not go lyco. Instead of growing fur and howling at the moon, she sets out with others from the Department for the Ongoing Regulation of Lycanthropic Activity (DORLA) to catch stray lycos and criminals who haven’t locked themselves up properly. She is a human in a world run by werewolves. She is looked down upon for being born non-lyco (considered a disability by most in her world), and like all others with her disability, she spends her days and nights working for the lycos in a lyco run world.
During a full moon, a friend loses a hand when a lune goes bad and then he ends up murdered before the attacker is brought to trial. She finds herself wrapped up in a case that runs much deeper than she thought with societal implications that leave her terrified and almost numb.
I know vampire and werewolf stories are starting to run thin, and even I myself, who happens to like stories with these creatures, am getting a bit tired. Yet, after reading In Great Waters, I found I liked Whitfield’s writing and wanted to read more. I found Benighted and became entranced with her world. She takes the normal werewolf story and turns it upside down. It is now the humans living in poor conditions, fighting prejudice at the hands of a world run by werewolves, and living degrading and horrifying lives. Being born a bareback (the negative term given to those children born head first and human) means living a life only to attend to lycos. They are given no other choice and for them it is a sad, scary, dangerous, and mostly short life.
Lola was the only non-lyco born in her family and she lived her entire life wondering what it would be like to turn with the full moon. When she finds herself in a relationship with a lyco, she ends up finding answers to questions that she never thought about. The devastating consequences make for a good, and sad, story. There are some, more like many, disturbing moments in this book. When Lola talks about her childhood I felt like she shared a bit too much and I wished she would take some of it back but it was already on the table at the point. It took me a while to like Lola even though I felt for her from the start. She does things that she hates, and begins to hate herself with good reason. It’s unfortunate that she feels, and in many cases is right, that she has no other choice. For someone in her position, it is only a life of servitude and nothing more even if she is made to feel free. It is the life she was born into and nothing will change her. She becomes more hardened against the outside world and that’s just to keep herself sane.
Whitfield is a good writer and I enjoyed this one much more than In Great Waters. Even if you’re tired of werewolves, I’d say give this one a chance. It’s an interesting, if sad and disturbing, world to get drawn into. There are a lot of themes at play, many of which I haven’t even touched on here, that leave you wondering more about societal ramifications than actual werewolves. It’s a dark world to get drawn into.