Friday, May 23, 2003

Murphy, Pat. Nadya. New York: Tor, 4/94. 480pp.

Nadya and her parents are immigrants to Missouri in the 1820s. But, they're not just any immigrants -- they're werewolves. Growing up on a farm, Nadya is more tomboy than polite society girl. This is in stark contrast to the other girls around her, who are more demur and lady-like. Those girls may be daughters of other farmers or shopkeepers, but they have pretensions and aspirations that Nadya just doesn't share. She is much happier out in the woods hunting and shooting. She even beats the local men in a sharp-shooting contest. Once she enters puberty, however, and starts changing into a werewolf like her parents, things start to fall apart. She falls in love with the wrong man, provoking a crisis which ends with her parents and her lover dead and Nadya fleeing westward towards California. She hooks up with an equally desperate young woman on the wagon trail - her father and the rest of their caravan have all been killed by Indians. Predictably, Nadya and Elisabeth fall in love on their arduous journey across deserts and mountains. This part of the novel is the most is the best and most dramatic, combining adventure with romance. Once they arrive in California, in the last quarter of the novel, I find the resolution less satisfying. Also, the werewolf elements sometimes seem almost tacked on to a conventional novel about a strong and independent woman in the wild west, as if Nadya had to be a werewolf (and bisexual) to make her believably different from the stereotypical woman of the era. However, when all is said and done, Nadya is an enjoyable novel of adventure, discovery and romance.


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