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Wagner the Werewolf by George W. M. Reynolds

Wagner the Werewolf (1847)

by George W. M. Reynolds

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I found this a difficult read, but not without compensations. Like most novels of this and earlier periods, it's full of melodrama, with a long word count and stilted dialogue. But the characters (even some of the minor ones) are interesting, and the concept of a heroic Jew would have been somewhat shocking to the typical reader. It's definitely a book for those curious about the origins of horror and fantasy ( )
  BruceCoulson | Jan 23, 2014 |
This book, I feel, is more a historical curiosity than a piece of literature that can really be appreciated today, at least by me. I was curious about its status as "penny dreadful" greatly popular during the mid-19th century, a piece of Victorian pop fiction. Unlike more "classic" works that are still read today, (like Shelley's "Frankenstein" or even Stoker's "Dracula") Wagner the Werewolf has little to offer modern readers. Word count is stretched, the plot is melodramatic and easily predictable, dialogue is sporadic and stilted, and characters are of hazy motivation. These problems may have been less noticeable by readers in the 1840s, but still Wagner the Werewolf is perhaps best as an example of what would be, in today's terms, an average TV melodrama.

However, I was particularly interested in reading a 19th century imagining of the historical events of the 16th century, which roots the work in its particular time period, with rival European powers and the Inquisition providing a backdrop to the plot. Also, Reynolds put forward social ideals in his writing that were progressive for his day which were slightly evident in some of the plot (especially the equality of religions) but still the majority remains embedded in typical viewpoints of Victorian English society. In the end, Wagner the Werewolf remains an artifact of 19th century popular culture and I can't recommend reading it for pleasure. ( )
1 vote Spoonbridge | May 29, 2009 |
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It was the month of January, 1516.
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Fernand Wagner's deal with the devil buys wealth and youth?at the price of monthly transformations into a ravening beast. The first important fictional treatment of the werewolf theme in English literature, this Victorian thriller traces Wagner's blood-soaked trail through sixteenth-century Italy. Packed with horrors and thrills, it offers a gothic feast of murders and supernatural events, punctuated by hidden plots and secret passages, Turkish invasions and intrigues, and other diabolical doings. Although largely forgotten today, author George W. Reynolds ranked among mid-Victorian England's most celebrated authors and was a prominent political figure and pioneer for social justice. This edition of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf includes the first extensive modern survey of Reynolds' work as well as twenty-four atmospheric illustrations.… (more)

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