Ancient Appetites (The Wildenstern Saga book 1) by Oisin McGann (book review).

‘Ancient Appetites’ is book one in ‘The Wildenstern Saga’, which currently stands at three books and one novella. They are classed as YA, so not much swearing and sex goes on within these pages, but you will encounter ‘a little bit of mild peril’ as they say at the movies.


The first thing you need to know about this book is that the Wildensterns are no ordinary family. They have a very bloodthirsty attitude to inheritance in that if you’re the eldest son, you are almost certain to be murdered. Incidentally, the eldest son has recently died in an ‘accident’ meaning that the younger sons are called back to the family pile to find out what happens next. Nate is the youngest son and he has been enjoying a gap year hunting down and capturing engimals in foreign climes. Nate decides that he’s fed up of his usual family attitude to these ‘accidents’ and wants to find out what really happened to his older brother. Luckily, one of the other elements to the Wildensterns is that they have a very strong grip on life, you really have to try hard to kill one of them, oh, and if they touch gold when they’ve been injured they can heal themselves almost from the point of death. While Nate is busy trying to figure out what actually happened to his big brother, they discover four mysterious bog bodies which, despite having been buried for hundreds of years, appear to still be alive.

This story is set in an alternative steampunk-ish Victorian era Ireland, which I found to be interesting as most steampunk novels tend to take place in London or possible Paris. The most interesting element was the engimals, which are animals that are made of machines. I especially loved the fact that the humans didn’t know where the engimals had come from, they just seemed to have been created by some previous civilisation, so they often didn’t know what the purpose of an individual engimal was. For example, they find a small engimal one day that does a curious thing, when you drop in a slice of bread it toasts it! But the most interesting thing for the humans is that it does so on both sides of the bread, apparently this is not the done thing among the higher ranking people in Ireland. Who knew?

I was a little confused about the history of this place, as people seem to have lived there for generations and yet there are these engimals which people seem to think come from the past. I want to know more about the history of these engimals and how they actually fit into the history of these people and the planet. I hope we get to learn more in later books, especially why some are wilder than others, where they actually came from, how did they come to exist, etc. Basically, there’s a lot I’d like to learn about these creatures.

This book did take me quite a while to get into. I would say at least 25-30% of the way through, I was still feeling a little lost. The story hopped around a lot to different people’s viewpoints and to different stories and mysteries like the bog bodies, who killed the eldest Wildenstern, and various smaller stories to do with individual characters. I did find that a lot of the things I didn’t understand were eventually explained but not at the point where I wanted an explanation. My advice is to keep plugging at the book and, eventually, you will know who everyone is and what everything means.

Overall, ‘Ancient Appetites’ wasn’t a bad book, I just found myself floundering a lot with the technology and the technical terms. Saying that, I think I’ve got a bit more of a handle on them so I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Sarah Bruch

October 2016

(pub: Corgi Childrens, 2008. Price: varies. ISBN: 978-0-55255-499-2)

Ebook. Price: £ 4.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-49766-570-5)

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