The Sight and Fell are books in the animal-fantasy genre – and, yes, that’s a thing. In the same vein as Watership Down, The Sight follows a pack of wolves haunted by a mysterious power that threatens to tear them apart. But don’t assume everything ends up okay because there’s a sequel – Fell deals with trauma.
Read the spoiler free version of this review on goodreads.
The Sight opens with a lengthy chapter that pulls the reader into the wild, mysterious Transylvania. Clement-Davies’ relies on description as his hook – this worked for me, as it was vibrant and cinematic; it seamlessly guides us through a snow-littered forest, until characters introductions begin on page 3. However, this may be a turn-off for those readers who aren’t enamoured by imagery.
Conflict is introduced quickly enough: Palla is pregnant and the pack is fleeing from Morgra, rumoured cub-killer. Morgra possesses the Sight, which allows her to see through the eyes of other animals. Like classic Maleficent, she is devious, cunning, and passionate. Her presence lingers, especially in Fell, where she haunts the titular character. She is more threatening in The Sight because she is an active force and is what TV tropes calls the Big Bad.
Both novels introduce a teeming culture. The world-building is one of the most enjoyable aspects of these stories! The wolves have their own myths, superstitions, and religion, and each character has their own attitude to these. Huttser, for example, is the sceptic who doesn’t believe in the Sight, but believes in the wolf gods. These different perspectives help the individual wolves stand out, while foreshadowing their character arcs.
By chapter’s end, Palla has birthed Fell and our protagonist Larka, Morgra has made an appearance, as well as Jarla and Tsarr who are searching for a human baby. It’s a lot of set-up – maybe, too much – but the cinematic style helps it run smoothly. Still, the chapter’s length leaves something to be desired – 37 pages! Nice for flights, I’m sure. Thankfully, Fell is an improvement, with its first chapter reaching 16 pages. The opening of Fell explores the world in the aftermath of the events of The Sight. We learn that much of what happened has been incorporated into wolf culture, told as myths – myths that demonise the main character. There is little conflict in the first chapter, instead relying on mystery and character as the hook.
The Sight and Fell are ultimately about connection, which is why the use of wolves is so effective. We know that wolves have strong social relationships. In The Sight Clement-Davies builds these relationships up – and then tears them down. When it becomes apparent that Larka possesses the Sight, a curse follows the pack. Slowly, the relationships fragment, characters are separated or killed until Larka is alone. In contrast, Fell opens with our main character living as a lone wolf. Where The Sight is about breaking relationships, Fell is about building them.
But family and friendship aren’t the only connections explored – truly, the series is about our greater connection to the earth, to strangers, to other species. In The Sight, humans are nearly absent and the book doesn’t delve into any of their thoughts. Humans are as mysterious to the wolves as wolves are to humans – this adds to the mystical atmosphere. In Fell, however, humans are part of the core cast. This may take away from the world’s appeal. Or, it may feel like a natural progression. That depends on your feelings as a reader. While I personally feel that the addition of human characters weakened Fell, I understand it came from story development. The Sight challenges where humans sit in the animal kingdom, that humans aren’t above animals – they are animals. By the novel’s end, Larka has used her power to break down the barrier between the human and animal world. It only makes sense to have this breakdown reflected in the sequel: humans are no longer mysterious creatures. Like the wolves, they have thoughts and conflicts.
Overall, I enjoyed both, though Fell is the weaker of the two. It’s telling that I can recall the events of The Sight years after I read it, unlike Fell. While I do think the first novel stands better on its own, its sequel is worth a read for anyone curious to know what became of the survivors, and is a fantastic novel in its own right.