Into the Waste

Wolf Tower — Tanith Lee
Claidi Journals, book 1

Wolf-Tower

1998’s Wolf Tower is the first volume in Tanith Lee’s Claidi Journals , so titled because the story is told as a series of entries in protagonist Claidi’s secret diary. Wolf Tower was also published as Law of the Wolf Tower , while the series is also known as the Wolf Tower series. Names can be tricky things, as protagonist Claidi finds out.

The House is an oasis in the middle of a vast wasteland. In fact, most of its inhabitants believe that it is the oasis in the middle of a world-spanning Wasteland and that to be exiled from it is to be consigned to a short, miserable life. Claidi’s parents suffered such a fate, exiled from the House for crimes against propriety too terrible to mention.

Even the doctrinaire rulers of the House could not bring themselves to punish the infant Claidi for her parents’ crimes. Instead they consigned her to a life of servitude to the stupid and cruel Jade Leaf. Such is the House’s mercy.


Handsome adventurer Nemian makes the mistake of thinking an outsider such as himself would be greeted by the House with welcoming arms. Instead, his balloon is shot down and Nemian is tossed into cell to await execution, as soon as the House can decide whether it would be better to shoot Nemian or to simply hang him.

Summoned to a private audience with matriarch Jizania Tiger, Claidi is astounded to discover the meeting is not a prologue to a particularly unpleasant punishment—a reasonable fear, since Claidi had slapped Jade Leaf that very morning—but rather a chance to escape from the House. Nemian is proof that there is a habitable world beyond the Waste. Jizania has decided to acknowledge this world, rather than shut it out. Ergo, Nemian must be allowed to escape. An insider has to help him and that insider is …Claidi!

Even if the alternative weren’t being brutally flogged for slapping Jade Leaf, Claidi can hardly say no. After all, Nemian is very, very handsome; Claidi is sure that the charming stranger is as trustworthy as he is handsome! That’s just logic.

The Waste (and a long series of learning moments) await the brave young woman.

 ~oOo~

There were times when I wondered if this was set on the same world as Don’t Bite the Sun. After finishing the book, I decided that this setting is more like the world of Black Unicorn . I would guess that there’s a plot reason for this: isolated communities in the middle of deserts are a great way to raise appealing naive protagonists. Claidi is much more naive than Tanaquil, both because her community is wilfully ignorant of a wider world it considers far beneath it, and because it has suited Claidi’s masters to keep her pliable by denying her specific information (such as the nature of the crime that got her parents set out into the Waste).

While Claidi isn’t stupid, she has a prodigious ability to ignore the obvious when the obvious gets in the way of a crush. It’s a good thing the author and a certain nomad bandit are on her side.

Don’t Bite the Sun has a single global biome and a single culture; this world has varied climates and cultures. An awful lot of them seem to be slaves of arbitrary custom, whether it is the House’s mindless adherence to Ritual, the Feather people’s taste for human sacrifice, or what passes for government in the Tower of the Wolf.

This book is aimed at younger readers. Lee never descends into the darkness that characterizes so many of her adult novels. That said, early on, Claidi is sexually harassed by House guards. An informed reader will know exactly what it is that Claidi fears, while the naive reader can pass by unaware. As well, while the Waste is not quite as awful as the House claims, it’s still pretty easy to die out there, whether because one has wandered out into a desert with only a little water, or because the comic villagers are only hospitable long enough to fool the stranger, who is then tossed off a cliff. Even if one survives the Waste, the life others intend for one may not be a life any reasonable person would want to live.

Sadly, if there is a recent North American edition of this book or the series of which it is a part, I was unable to find it. British readers can at least turn to the SF Gateway ebook edition.

Title

Missing or dead mothers

Missing or dead fathers

The Birthgrave

1

1

The Storm Lord

1

1

Volkhavaar

2

2

Drinking Sapphire Wine

0

0

Night’s Master

2

1

Shadowfire

2

1

Death’s Master

3

3

Sabella

1

1

Day By Night

1

2

Silver Metal Lover

0

0

Delusion’s Master

1

1

Cyrion

0

0

Anakire

2

1

Sung in Shadow

1

0

The White Serpent

1

1

The Book of the Beast

0

1

Electric Forest

1

0

The Book of the Mad

1

2*

Lycanthia

0

0

A Heroine of the World

1

1

The Winter Players

0

2

Delirium’s Mistress

1


The Blood of Roses

2

1

Castle of Dark

1

0

Prince on a White Horse

0

0

Heart-Beast

0

0

Quest for the White Witch

1

0

Shon the Taken

0

0

Black Unicorn

1

1

Gold Unicorn

0

1

Dark Dance

1

1

Personal Darkness

1

1

Darkness, I

0

0

Wolf Tower

1

1

Total

30

25*



* Includes one uncle.



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