Monday, August 27, 2012

Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

Book:  Silver Moon
Author:  Catherine Lundoff
Publisher:  Lethe Press

The very real
Miss Annie Jones
The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian poem dating back to approximately 2,000 B.C., is among the earliest surviving works of literature, and is believed to present the first literary evidence of werewolves.  Yet in 1995, when Clarissa Pinkola Estés penned Women Who Run with the Wolves, female werewolves were scarcely on the mythological radar. When they were, it was most often attributed to witchcraft, being turned by male werewolves, or because the woman was suffering the effects of hirsutism—best exemplified by Barnum & Bailey's Bearded Lady, Miss Annie Jones.

There are a host of theories on why lycanthropes in literature and film are predominately male. However, in general, the prevailing premise is that werewolves, by nature, express characteristics deemed both ‘male’ and ‘masculine.  These attributes include, among others, strength, power, aggression, rage, violence, a preponderance of body hair, and the refusal to stop and ask for directions.

Of course, that also describes more than a few members of the Tea Party.

Alfonsina Storni deemed men
"el enimigo"
In the opening stanzas of La Loba by Argentinean poet, Alfonsina Storni, we are introduced to a female spirit who is undaunted by traditional societal prejudices, and is willing to give free expression to her feminine yearnings and feelings. 

I am like the she-wolf.
I broke with the pack

And fled to the mountains

Tired of the plain….

Poor little tame sheep in a flock!
Don’t fear the she-wolf, she will not harm you.
But also don’t belittle her, her teeth are sharp

And in the forest she learned to be sly.

By choosing the ‘she-wolf’ to symbolize women, the author displays her support of feminism by boasting an independence that, even today, is rarely attributed to females and femininity by patriarchal society. In fact, as the poem plays out, Ms. Storni notes that the narrator is no less capable than a man in defending herself because she has “A hand / that knows how to work and a brain that is healthy.” In other words, the ‘she-wolf’ does not require male protection in any form because she is competently equipped with her own skills, strength, intellect, senses, spirit, socket wrench set, and capacity for devotion.

Okay, my high school Spanish might be a wee bit rusty…

Silver Moon, the full-length novel from award winning author and editor, Catherine Lundoff, offers up an unexpected action-packed, romantic, paranormal coming-of-age tale.  In the bucolic mountain town of Wolf’s Point, Becca Thornton is approaching fifty, coming to terms with her post-divorce life, and trying to reconcile the sudden wave of hot flashes that strike every time her sexy cowgirl-cum-accountant neighbor, Erin offers up a slow, lazy smile.  Well, in truth, the hot flashes and other changes are happening a lot more frequently than just when Erin is around, but Becca’s sexy neighbor certainly has her thinking about switching teams from the beginning.

Before long, Erin shows Becca that there’s more to Wolf’s Point and menopause than she ever imagined.  In particular, some women of a certain age in Wolf’s Point are touched by the valley’s magic and are transformed into werewolves to protect the valley and its people.  While acceptance isn’t easy or natural, Becca finds that she can neither ignore nor deny the changes to her body. As the newest member of the pack, Becca begins spending her nights howling at the moon, chasing rabbits, and protecting townspeople—and her days reconciling menopause, lycanthropy, divorce, burgeoning lesbianism, and a minimum wage job.

However, evil has come to the valley in the form of werewolf hunters, lead by one of their own.  Oya used to be a werewolf, and claims her family was killed by the ones who were supposed to protect them.  She knows too much about pack dynamics, and believes that Becca, as the newest werewolf is vulnerable.  After much circling and heel nipping, Oya and her nasty band of Big Bads kidnap both Becca and the wolf pack’s alpha, and pump them full of chemicals in an attempt to cure them of lycanthropy.  After a daring escape, Becca, along with acting-alpha, Erin, the rest of the pack, and the townspeople who support them have one chance to drive the evil from the valley—they only need to rescue their alpha and find a way to ignite an ancient magic than no one alive has ever used.

Silver Moon is a refreshing feminist retelling of the modern classic werewolf thriller, wrapped in an unexpected coming-of-age romance.  Becca is initially presented to readers as a soft character on the doorstep of menopause who is battling weight issues.  She has tenuous self-esteem, works a job that barely pays the bills, and two years after the fact, is still trying to move beyond a philandering ex-husband.  Her empowerment begins almost immediately in the form of a curious and wholly unexpected sexual attraction to a woman. 

From there, the lupine characteristics begin to present themselves, and Becca finds herself transforming into a strong, sleek, powerful, and vibrant creature—not just a werewolf, but a woman who is increasingly comfortable in the shifting sands of her life.  Don’t get me wrong, the themes of coming out, menopause, divorce, and shape shifting are strong metaphors for this personal transformation—and Becca cycles through each of them with varying degrees of theoretical and practical rationality.  

Beyond that, Ms. Lundoff subtly hints throughout the story that Becca’s lupine abilities, while surprisingly advanced for someone so newly touched by the magic, stand to make her much more powerful within the pack than anyone realizes.  Likewise, the reader sees flashes of Becca’s unexpected personal growth and development as both a woman and a sexual being.

Ultimately, Silver Moon is a hard book to categorize—being equal parts paranormal, romance, action, thriller, and intrigue.  Becca’s character is amazingly complex and well developed, however the reader is left to wonder who Erin, Lizzie, and Shelly really are as characters, what really happened to Oya’s family, and why the evil scientist was perfecting an anti-werewolf serum for the Big Bads.

We’re also left wondering what Mrs. Hui has up her decidedly tasteful yet furry sleeve.

Silver Moon is a fresh, fun, and engaging slant on the tired and traditional werewolf genre, and it succeeds in empowering women at a time when so much of who they are is taken from them. And, while the romance barely makes it past indecent thought, the Big Bads are well funded but pitifully trained, and the werewolves are benevolent creatures touched by magic—there is a bounty of riches that make the book a solid read.  As an added bonus, the editing is crisp and generally free of errors, and the cover art is noteworthy in that it is simple, playful, and attractive.

The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned lesfic romance, searching for a literary booty call, or prefer traditional, patriarchal werewolf fiction, then Silver Moon decidedly isn’t the book for you.  However, if you’re looking for a story that celebrates feminism and independence, and is full of women with skills, strength, intellect, sense, spirit, sexuality, and a capacity for devotion, then it is a novel that will surprise and captivate you. 

While there were a slew of unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts littering the story, I’m betting there will be a sequel.  I’m giving Silver Moon a 4.9 out of 6.0 on the Rainbow Scale with an added bonus of 0.1 because it made me feel powerful and strong as a graying 45-year old woman. 

The final rating is a solid 5.0.


  1. Intriguing and awfully well researched. It sounds like a unique and unusual story for our community. Thanks for a thorough, well conceived review.


    1. Ms. MacBean! I'm always honored when you swing by TRR and sit for a spell!

  2. This is a story I haven't read before and your review has me intrigued. A menopausal female werewolf is certainly worth a look. Thanks.

  3. Hi Mary Anne! Thanks for taking time to swing by TRR and read the latest. I mean, who DOESN'T love a menopausal werewolf? Okay, maybe teenage werewolves. Anyway, a fascinating twist - enjoy!

  4. The humor, suspense, and well paced plot, along with fascinating characters made this a really fun read. I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to a sequel.

    1. Simplebooks, thanks for stopping by TRR and letting me know what you thought of "Silver Moon."

  5. I have 238 emails I'm finally responding to, and the best was your review of Silver Moon (clever of me to always savor best last). It's next to my bed, waiting patiently, and I think when I go away next weekend it's the first book I'm packing! Can't wait to get at it! Thanks for as always a fun review.