Wolfborn by Sue Bursztynski
Woolshed Press, 2010. ISBN 9781864718256.
(Age 11+) Recommended. When sixteen-year-old Etienne goes to Lucanne to train as a knight at the manor of Geraint, he encounters more than he has bargained for. Geraint, his master, is betrayed by enemies and disappears on the night of the Harvest Festival. It is up to Etienne and wise-woman, Sylvie, and her unusual daughter, Jeanne, to try and save his lord. But Etienne has a secret, he is bisclavret, a born werewolf, and must use all his powers to help those he loves.
The medieval world that Etienne belongs to has been described in vivid detail by the author. The transition in beliefs and customs from the old religion to the new is quite absorbing, as is the mystical otherworld of the gods. I loved the way the author was able to build a scenario where I was able to imagine werewolves as an unacknowledged part of the society of the times.
Etienne, too, is a beautifully developed character, whose growth and development kept me reading to the end. The love between Etienne and Jeanne is tested and Etienne has to make some very difficult decisions to ensure the safety of those he loves.
It is very refreshing to read a book that has a different take about werewolves. Wolfborn is based on a medieval romance and has all the overtones of a well researched, gripping historical novel. I was fascinated by the Afterword in which Bursztynski describes the source for the story. In the 12th century Marie de France wrote a collection of stories called the Breton Lais and Bursztynski has used one of these as the inspiration for her absorbing story.
More mature readers who like this story may wish to move onto The Moorehawke trilogy by Celine Kiernan.