This list of werewolf books from around the world for World of Fantasy Day is sponsored by Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty.
It doesn’t have the popularity of vampire- or zombie-centred stories, but I’ve always found werewolf fiction to be a fascinating – and underrated – part of the supernatural canon. Like their bloodsucking counterparts, werewolves have appeared in legends all over the world, and so it’s unsurprising that many different countries have their own takes on werewolf fiction. Here’s a rundown of some tradition-inspired favourites, and some boundary-stretching, experimental contributions to the world of werewolf stories.
Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize series is a loving tribute to Dracula, by way of twenty-first century Texas. Most of the focus is on the vampires – or Eternals – that live amongst humans, feeding from them, turning them, and living in decadent luxury. In Blessed, however, we get a little more of an insight into the world’s were characters, in particular the pack of werewolves joined by Kieren, love interest of the vampire heroine Quincey. Leitich Smith’s werewolves are tight-knit and fiercely private, trying to hold onto their traditions while also avoiding the immense prejudice they face from the human world (according to an in-universe poll, the majority of humans think it should be legal to hunt weres while they’re in their animal forms). If you love paranormal romance – and mouthwatering descriptions of food – put Blessed and the other Tantalize novels on your TBR pile, and get to know the packs and families that put a new spin on werewolf myths.
The Wolfman by Nicholas Pekearo
This wolfy twist on the hard-boiled detective genre was written by New York volunteer police officer Nicholas Pekearo, who was sadly killed on duty shortly after The Wolfman was published. The hero, Marlowe Higgins, is a werewolf in the old Germanic tradition, having to move on to a different town every month after he loses control of his mind during his werewolf cycle and ends up killing someone. Finally finding a home in the small town of Evelyn, Higgins soon finds out that he’s not the only supernatural creature around. He’ll have to contend with the Rose Killer, a monster who viciously attacks young girls.
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
Another American werewolf story, Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow is written in free verse, and features a whole dynasty of werewolves turning the streets of L.A. into a hidden but increasingly brutal war zone. Built around a central romance between a dogcatcher and a renegade werewolf, this poetic narrative brings in the blood, sweat, heat, and hair of being a paranormal creature in the modern world. With an uncompromising view of both werewolf and human life, in all its grubbiness and glory, Sharp Teeth is a unique look at werewolves that will appeal to fans of fantasy, poetry, or contemporary works.
Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh
New Zealander Nalini Singh is a veteran writer of paranormal romance, and this third installment in the Psy-Changeling Trinity deals with shifting alliances between many different races of supernatural creatures. Werewolves are a big part of the Psy-Changeling universe, including as the love interest of Wolf Rain’s heroine. With warring factions and the existence of the entire Psy race in the balance, this romance series is tense and multi-faceted.
The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin
In this Russian werewolf novel, legends clash as werewolf meets werefox, and romance meets satire. A 2,000-year-old werefox and an opera-loving werewolf have to work on their relationship issues while negotiating the ins and outs of the oil industry, in a send-up of modern Russia that was a smash hit in its original translation. Readers who like their werewolves wry and cyberpunk won’t be disappointed.
The Devourers by Indra Das
Set in the author’s home town of Kolkata, this story-within-a-story follows the attempts of college professor Alok to put together a half-finished story told by a stranger. Alok dives deeper into myths and legends running from the seventeenth century through to the present day, tracing the tales of werewolves that have lived alongside – and often clashed with – their human counterparts. With a brutal, visceral focus on the body horror of shapeshifting, this is a book that punches at the reader’s senses.
Loups-Garous by Natsuhiko Kyogoku
Dystopian futures, serial killers, vicious shapeshifters, and teenage girls investigating a horrific crime – this book has it all. Loups-Garous is a horror story with the werewolf as a shifting, stalking figure that overshadows the heroines as they try to work out who has been murdering their student peers. Set in Japan, it’s also a sharp look at the impact of technology on society, and the power that a state can wield when surveillance is at an all-time high.
The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
The Watch heads out of Ankh-Morpork and into the Hammer Horror-inspired wilds of Uberwald in this installment in the Discworld series. As well as dwarves, trolls and vampires, Commander Vimes runs into a particularly vicious group of werewolves, the family of his loyal Sergeant Angua. These werewolves enjoy the hunt a little too much, and have distinctly werewolf supremacist aspirations (I’m still not over the backstory of what happened to Angua’s baby sister). With Pratchett’s unique ability to take a well-established legend and twist it into something new and exciting, The Fifth Elephant makes werewolves both a genuinely scary threat, and an intriguing part of an already richly-developed fantasy world – in fact, I wish we’d been able to spend more time with the von Uberwald family.