Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/06/17/book-review-the-poison-tree-werewolf-the-apocalypse-20th-anniversary-edition/
More than two years after its release, Werewolf: The Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition is still the gift that keeps on giving – at least if you were a Kickstarter backer for it. Case in point, The Poison Tree – the newest W:TA Novel. Sure, with a page count of only 180 pages (which includes covers and legal bits), The Poison Tree is somewhere between a full length book and a novella, but it’s always nice to see a new release for Werewolf: The Apocalypse, am I right?
I going to be brutally honest right now though. The Poison Tree is a pretty paint by numbers piece. You should be able to see the end of the novel coming from the first few pages. If not, I have to assume this is your first ever book, not just your first W:TA read. It’s full of clichés, it can be quite hackneyed, not a single major protagonist dies (odd for a Werewolf book) and the climax is an abrupt Dues Ex Machina that feels a bit hollow/rushed/unsatisfactory. So you would think that means The Poison Tree is pretty terrible. In fact, the EXACT OPPOSITE is true. In spite of all these flaws, tropes and things authors are told never to do, The Poison Tree manages to be a very fun read due to the ability of the author and the personalities of the characters. If anything, The Poison Tree proves that sometimes you can take what are perceived to be negatives and turn them into positives. Sure, The Poison Tree‘s plot won’t win any awards since it’s something we’ve all no doubt read or watched dozens of times before, you can’t help but find the tale enjoyable. Think of it as the W:TA version of a Cozy Mystery, where you’re charmed by the book and its characters in spite of it having characteristics people tend to poo-poo.
The Poison Tree revolves around the war chief of Savannah, Georgia. Her name is Ingrid and she is a Shadow Fang (My favorite clan, followed by Uktena and Silent Striders). Ingrid is a rather angry young woman. Her cousin Marcus wants her title and pack. Her father Karl, runs the city and although he has always been an isolationist, he seems to grow more paranoid and insane with each passing day. Her city is under constant siege by the forces of the Wyrm and due to her father’s policies, it’s hard to recruit Garou from outside the city to help battle fomori and other Wyrmspawn. So yes, Ingrid is a little angry at the world and unfortunately, there isn’t much she can do about it.
Recently though, she’s been having terrible dreams about the fall of Savannah and apparently, she is not alone. Her father appears to be plagued by something similar and her cousin, a Metis named Eric is having the same dreams as Ingrid. So disturbed is she by the combo of bad weather and dreams that Ingrid decides to bring in some new blood to the city. At the next moot she enlists some outside help. Now her father is okay with Garou getting the equivalent of a yearlong pass into Savannah as long as they spend the bulk of their time fighting the Wyrm, so the Get of Fenris pack and a mixed pack of three other Garou mean nothing to her father. These are within the laws of his realm. It’s when Ingrid break her father’s rule of letting ronin werewolves into the city that his sanity begins to break completely. Moreover, allowing these three ronin into the city begins to unmask a conspiracy that involves the entire city of Savannah that has waited twenty-five years to unveil its machinations. This conspiracy may not wipe out just the Garou of Savannah…but the entire city itself. Who can Ingrid trust, if anyone, to save Savannah and her own soul from the Wyrm?
The Poison Tree is a quick read since it is about half the length of most full-sized novels, but even though the page count is short, there is a lot of action and characterization packed in. Each character is pretty stereotypical, not just in regards to how their clan, but personality tropes as well. Marcus, Ingrid cousin is a slimy weasel who does nothing else but plot, scheme and annoy Ingrid. Ingrid herself is little more than the two-dimensional bad ass female with a heart of gold trope. Yet even while each character clings to clichés, they managed to leap off the page as more than they actually are, which is a testament to the author’s writing ability more than anything else. You quickly find characters you’ll love and whom you’ll hate (my favorite was Catherine the Uktena and Starscream…I mean Marcus was the easiest to loathe). This was fun light literature from beginning to end and even though The Poison Tree embraces a lot of my personal pet peeves (especially for WoD fiction), I couldn’t help but really enjoy this book for what it was. Fans of Werewolf: The Apocalypse should definitely track this down once it is released to the general public. Onyx Path generally prices their fiction quite affordably, especially digital-only pieces like this and this is just one example of how W20 has managed to outside V:TM 20AE in nearly every way (as a longtime V:TM zealot, it pains me to admit that).
So yes, The Poison Tree is fun fiction. It doesn’t try to be a work of seminal literature. It’s simply a somewhat generic, but very-well written tale about the Garou vs the Wyrm and how often times werewolves are their own worst enemies. Pick it up on DriveThruRPG.com once it’s released. If you’re a W:TA fan, I think you’ll enjoy it a lot.