Waer, a fantasy novel by Meg Caddy, explores a world in which werewolves known as waer are attacked and mistreated for their nature, described as ‘unclean’ and ‘dogs’ by the antagonist Daemon Leldh, a ruler from an ancient long-lived nation with a desire for vengeance and control. Daemon, with his pet enforcers Cooper and Kaebha, lives only to torture and kill those that he cannot control or who fit into his murderous need for genocide. Lowell Sencha, a waer raised to be a shepherd and farmer, and Lycaea, a mysterious girl who has been turned waer against her will, are the only ones who see the true danger that Daemon Leldh presents, not only to the cities he rules, but also to the wider kingdoms of Luthan and beyond.
The fast paced plot with strong action and build-up of relationships makes this an engaging and interesting read. We move quickly from chases and battles to deals and alliances and then back again. This is balanced by the creation of new relationships or revealing of past ones, which both further the plot, but also builds up more nuanced characters. The inclusion of strong female characters such as Lycaea and Moth, as well as sensitive male characters such as Lowell and Dodge, makes a clear move away from some traditional fantasy stories which continue clichés of domestic women and fighting men. It was also positive to see a text that focuses on werewolves from a less clichéd context than the numerous Twilight knock-offs that have been popping up with regular frequency over the last couple of years.
The story was generally engaging, though at points the unusual names of people and places complicated the text and only became familiar by the end. Perhaps the novel would have benefitted by including a glossary. This text could certainly be used as a wide reading task, perhaps for students in Years 9, 10 and 11. It could also be used within a Year 9 or 10 classroom, as it had some powerful themes: good and evil, genocide (of the waer), mythology, racism, friendship, love and sacrifice. However, it is important to note that there are clear references to torture and battle scenes, which could be problematic depending on the background of your class. Some ideas, particularly the dilemma of Kaebha, the use of torture and genocide could be useful if you had an English subject that was integrated with History and could be linked to: World War II Prisoners of War or Holocaust - Choices people make / Genocide (Year 10) or Making a Nation - Treatment of Aboriginals - Racism (Year 9).
Reviewed by Rachel Towns, St John's Regional College