Poet Tongue, by Kyla Stan

Poet Tongue CoverWerewolves have been used in many ways in literature and film: sometimes for horror and blood and gore, sometimes for love and lust, sometimes as symbols of humanity (or loss thereof) or as symbols of big change and transition. In Poet Tongue, the debut work by Kyla Stan, the werewolves are used to symbolize a change in character, but I was pleasantly surprised by the change they symbolized here.

Violet is an outcast both in school and at home. Her father is out of the picture, and her mother barely acknowledges her existence. The cheerleaders and other popular students look down on her and bully her. And her boyfriend…well, he’s a big jerky cheater. Her only friends are Rose—another girl on the fringes of the crowd at school—and her heavy metal band mates. Things are so bad that Violet has a suicide note ready and goes to the top of a cliff in the Washington State wilderness.

This is a werewolf story, so it’s pretty obvious what ultimately happens to her, and before long she’s sprouting fangs, fur, claws, and paws. But the change isn’t fueled by the moon; instead it’s spurred on by her emotional state—something she may need to learn how to control.

Usually werewolves, or Skin Walkers as they’re called here, come from other werewolves. That honor goes to Tohon, a young adult member of a local pack that live in the woods. He feels responsible for altering Violet’s life forever and vows to protect and teach her. Apparently, if she strays too far from the pack, she’ll go “rogue” and be unable to control her more animalistic urges.

The imagery in this story is outstanding. All scenery, particularly with the book’s emphasis on nature, is vividly painted. The character development is strong, and the relationship between Violet and Tohon evolves at just the right pace. There’s great internal conflict within Violet, and there’s also enough external conflict—a zealot and his followers out to hunt the Skin Walkers—to keep the book gripping.

My only quibbles with the story concern the fates of the supporting cast from Violet’s previous life. The jerky boyfriend gets some comeuppance for his jerky transgressions, but some might think it’s a little too much. Violet’s friends in the band and Rose—poor Rose—deserve an explanation from Violet about where she’s been and headed.

These are relatively minor issues, and Violet’s well-developed character arc more than makes up for them. She grows strong in many ways and finds herself along the way. It’s a nice inversion of the typical werewolf as lone wolf outcast; instead, she finds a place to belong because she chooses to defend and fight for the pack against its hunters. Though she’s a sensitive character, she’s also a tough heroine. Her toughness, and the story, is more than skin deep at FOUR STARS.

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Poet Tongue is available at Lulu.

Read the spotlight of author Kyla Stan HERE.

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