The Wolf Mile by C F Barrington

August 27, 2021

Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and followed by thousands online, two teams of warriors vie for dominance … and the streets of Edinburgh run with blood.

Into this secret struggle steps Tyler Maitland, seeking his lost sister, and Lana Cameron, grieving her dead child. When they are accosted by figures in black hoodies and each handed a silver amulet, they recognize the Triple Horn of Odin – the talisman of the Valhalla Horde.

They are being recruited into the great game known as The Pantheon. And one day they will change everything.

Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams which inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more wondrous and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, taking each of them to the depths of their souls … and testing them to breaking point as they search for loved ones and for the meaning in their lives.

Let the Season begin.

I was intrigued by The Wolf Mile by C F Barrington as soon as I read the book blurb. Viking berserkers and Greek Hoplite clans facing off against one another on modern city streets. To the winner goes all the trapping of fortune and glory. Sounds pretty brilliant doesn’t it? Guess what? It is.

The clandestine nature of the Pantheon, specifically the Viking warriors of the Valhalla Horde, is revealed through the eyes of two new recruits – Tyler and Lana. We follow them as they train to become elite warriors. The trials they are forced to endure are brutal, designed to strip away the thin veneer of modern living and reshape participants into skilled soldiers. Both characters have very personal reasons for seeking out The Pantheon, but it’s riveting to see how these reasons evolve as life in a secret army becomes more and more appealing. Tyler and Lana are broken souls, lost in their own lives. To suddenly have something far bigger than themselves gives them both a sense of purpose.

The setting for The Wolf Mile raised a smile. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities on the planet. I know, a shocking revelation from a Glaswegian, but there you go. In Edinburgh, the historic and modern exist together in a weird amalgam of old and new. I can’t think of a better place for two Pantheon forces to meet.

One of the things I like most about this novel is the endless possibility that lies at its heart. In a handful of throwaway lines, Barrington mentions the other members of the Pantheon dotted around the globe. Much as I love Edinburgh, and I really do, I need to know more. How are the other armies that take part structured? What rivalries exist? You can’t just tease us with the Mongol hordes and the Huns and leave it like that. There is a whole mythology that has only been hinted at. I must know more!

I devoured this novel, relishing each new chapter. Sitting alongside all-time favourites like Roofworld by Christopher Fowler and The Race novels by Joan De La Haye, The Wolf Mile dangles the tantalising premise of hidden sub-cultures. The idea of secret worlds existing in parallel with our own has always fascinated me. The next time I’m in Scotland’s capital I think I’ll need to spend a bit more time watching what is going on around me. Perhaps I’ll take a walk around the Old Town in the wee small hours of the night. You know, just to check there are no pitched battles between Greek and Viking forces kicking off that I might be missing out on.

Barrington has a keen eye for action. The Hoplites engage with a near clinical efficiency, while the Valhalla Horde have a far more organic approach to violence. It’s breathtaking stuff when they clash with one another. Partnered with all the frenetic chaos is some well-executed world-building. The Pantheon is governed by sets of rules and rituals. The attention to the smallest details elevate this story, fleshing out the complex society the author has crafted.

I keep asking myself how in the name of Hel did I let the release of The Wolf Mile slip me by? It ticks all the boxes I’m looking for when it comes to thrillers. There are secret societies, lashings of intrigue, bloody battles and some Machievllian politics to boot. Hardly a surprise Tyler and Lana have no idea who to trust. As is always the case when it comes to books I really enjoy, I could waffle on endlessly. Let me attempt to summarise. C F Barrington’s debut has bucketloads of action, plenty of great characters (Halvar for the win!) and a plot that I couldn’t get enough of. The Wolf Mile is pure, unadulterated escapism and I loved every word.

The Wolf Mile is published by Head of Zeus and is available now. I cannot recommend it highly enough. In even more exciting news the sequel, The Blood Isles is due for release in October. I can guarantee you that this time I won’t be missing out. Book two of The Pantheon series is already on my Kindle and you can be damn sure I’ll be reviewing it*.

I didn’t really have much in the way of choice when it came to my musical recommendation to accompany The Wolf Mile. It really had to be something suitably Viking-esque. After much pondering, I went with the soundtrack to Vikings – Wolves of Midgard. I’m sure the Valhalla Horde would approve.

*Apologies for what amounts to a humblebrag. One of the joys of being such an ancient, venerable book reviewer is publishers sometimes take pity on me and I get the occasional novel early.

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