Countless possibilities and interpretations of the moon’s significance, carnal nature, pack, and self-defense abound when one builds a series around lesbian werewolves. All of these collide around Allison Moon’s Tales of the Pack central character Lexie Clarion, a freshman at a small, liberal arts college in rural Oregon, who is quickly embraced by a household of women led by the intimidating, theory-spouting Blythe. In Moon’s first installment Lunatic Fringe, the dyke drama of the group only gets exacerbated when Blythe meets her girlfriend, the seductively butch carpenter Archer.
The plot muddies somewhat as her pack of friends start hunting a pack of violent wolves that are preying on the group, and the distinctions between halfbloods, fullbloods, and purebloods furthers confuses the story. But the novel’s intertwining of history, folklore, and spirituality with the modern day is intriguing. The storyline continues in the sequel Hungry Ghost, with a change in the group dynamic along with Lexie’s incremental acceptance of her own lupine nature.
It was entertaining to read Moon’s descriptions of Lexie’s introduction to lesbian feminisms in the stereotypical environment of a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest. In contrast to the funny story, the reader follows Lexie’s education as the author accurately and painfully reveals the deep rifts and controversies within these movements. At some points, though, these explorations seem unintentional, such as when characters make polarizing claims that are occasionally resolved but never fully explored.
Mitch, the one transmasculine character, bears the brunt of both condemnation and misguided allyship, but he seems little more than a narrative device to explore the issues rather than a fully-fleshed character, and the rhetoric surrounding him never goes beyond half-thought-out musings. Relatedly, at no point does Moon even acknowledge that trans women exist, but that omission may actually be for the best since there is a fair amount of transmisogyny and cissexism permeating both novels.
Fun sex scenes are found throughout both books, and there is plenty of intrigue, mystery, and suspense. Many readers will overlook (or not notice) the lack of editing, and the Tales of the Pack series does helps fill a gap in modern queer fiction. These two works are recommended for libraries looking to include more lesbian fiction in their collections. Some libraries may wish to shelve these items in the young adult section.
Reviewer: Kyle Lukoff
Librarian, Corlears School (NY)