Billed as modern urban fantasy, Joseph Hagen’s Risen and Hunted series makes a solid start. Borrowing elements from an American Werewolf in London, it begins with an ill-fated camping trip that leaves two young men dead (and a little undead) with a third contemplating a rather different life.
Moonrise follows Alan, who lives in blissful ignorance of a parallel world to ours of magic, curses, and ancient blood feuds. A bite from a vengeful werewolf on a dark night grants him abrupt, unwanted access to the dark current Hagen creates, an effective sense of things swirling unseen beneath the everyday: sometimes a stick is just a stick. Sometimes, it’s a conduit for astonishing power.
Though Alan’s initiation into this new world is largely unwelcome and frightening (the novel also underscores early the particular pain of hiding one’s identity from loving, supportive parents who just can’t understand – a metaphor for all manner of real-world identity angst), he does get to take pleasure in the things his new body can do.
Another familiar strand here from body horror and super-hero genres: Alan’s anxieties around losing control of the animal within and of urges he doesn’t fully grasp yet. He’s mortified, for instance, by an out-of-character display of sexual aggression toward a new ally. Alongside this, Alan discovers he might just enjoy letting his inner wolf free, a theme Hagen expands in book 2: Wolfhunt.
These tropes indicate the quest for a cure won’t prove easy. Alan’s internal battles become the least of his worries, as his attacker returns, and it emerges that making peace with his wolf might be the only way for Alan to protect himself and those he loves. Risen and Hunted doesn’t break new ground, but it does entertain, with sympathy and high stakes.