25 Ways to Kill a Werewolf by Jo Thomas
I would like to thank the author for a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review
Publisher – Fox Spirit
Price - £6.99 paperback/£3.99 kindle eBook
Published – Out Now
‘My name is Elkie Bernstein. I live in North Wales and I kill werewolves.’ When Elkie finds herself fighting for her life against something that shouldn’t exist she is faced with the grim reality that werewolves are real, and she just killed one. Part diary, part instruction manual Elkie guides the reader through 25 ways you can kill a werewolf, without any superpowers, and how she did it.
I think it was Ian Fleming who wrote that to be attacked once is unfortunate, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action. In this case 25 times may be viewed as overkill and hence Elkie Bernstein in Jo Thomas’ darkly amusing fantasy horror tale becomes the latest in a series of monster hunters from Van Helsing to Buffy. However here we get a less glamourous and far more British take.
Elkie when we first meet her is a welsh working class girl living with her mother in a ramshackle farmhouse cottage out in the countryside. She is close friends with Dave; the son of the farmers they rent off and usually they just play fantasy games in the back of beyond. Playing with home-made spears they are unexpectedly attacked by a large dog-like creature who more through luck than design ends on the pointy end and turns into a man. The two decide to hide the body and that should be that…except a few days later another creature arrives and in escaping ends on an electric fence. Something appears to be drawing in werewolves and eventually it becomes clear Elkie is the target.
This as you can imagine is an unusual rural fantasy tale. It’s tempting to think that constant werewolf attacks would be repetitive, but Thomas brings several dimensions to the story that keeps the momentum and the tale interesting. Firstly, the character of Elkie is a hugely sympathetic narrator and over the course of the novel there is a lot of character development as we see her go from stunned teenager to competent young adult. It’s unusual that Elkie is working class; her mother is poor; she needs to use the library for the internet and her job prospects (particularly after the trauma of an attack) are thin. Her best friend Dave is more academic and there is an interesting commentary on her being the one left behind and feeling judged by his various uni friends. Despite that as the attacks continue, we see she is resilient, strong and thinks on her feet and her emotional journey as she must deal with the shock of attack and as she realises is killing (even in self-defence) humans. She is a well-rounded character who like Buffy you can see the impact of her life but still has some morality to live by. As we see in the later stages of the book not everyone stays on the right side of the line….
The other factor that made this such an enjoyable ride is the ‘game’ that Elkie finds herself in. Someone close to her is setting up these frequent attacks. They communicate through occasional emails and exactly why this person wants Elkie to be attacked (plus where the werewolves are coming from) adds a larger dimension to the tale that these attacks are just one strand to. These frequent attacks also mean that Elkie must be constantly prepared to use what’s available to protect herself. Chapter headings give you clues as to how she will kill her attacker and while a spade or drowning may make sense would you expect a dog fight or chocolate spread? That I shall leave for your later discovery and enjoyment…
It is part of a trilogy and the next phase of the tale is set up, but I think on its own this is a really enjoyable rural horror tale and Elkie is just an amazingly loveable and cool character in her own right. Strongly recommend it if you’d like to see a more British take on Buffy