Plot/Idea: The Wolf's Den is an exciting, finely developed fantasy tale that will appeal to those with an interest in medieval lore.
Prose: The author’s imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, and the details of Etria really jump off the page.
Originality: While not all contemporary readers might find this story relatable, it is an entertaining foray into escapism with a vividly realized setting.
Character Development/Execution: Borus, Kass, and Jules aim to become knights to serve the king, and each of them follows a different road. The characters are believable and their differences are interesting. Readers may wish for an additional layer of diversity among the cast.
Date Submitted: June 23, 2022
It’s the summer of 600, and 10-year-old Borus leaves home to attend the Trinity School for Knights. Kassandros (known as Kass) is devastated to lose his cherished older brother, even though he will be joining Borus next year, but at seven, Julien (called Jules) is more focused on his pony and undeniable horse skills. Jensen emphasizes individual achievement by setting the brothers on different paths: Borus becomes a master swordsman, Kass accompanies the Wolf to the remote Southwind Fort and bravely employs his archery skills when they’re ambushed by an invading force, and Jules shocks his parents when his magic manifests.
Jensen’s story is rich with details of chivalric combat, whether it’s rigorous training exercises created by inventive instructors or bloody skirmishes that shatter the Etrian peace, as well as plenty of magic to please fantasy fans. Jules is a rarity, a weather mage who can manipulate the forces of nature, and his father tries to ground him with a cautionary tale of an ancestor whose abilities drained her of life. Heroes are more stoic than emotional in this tale, and their actions are emphasized over their words, as Jensen explores the formative years of the valiant Wolfensberger brothers as a quest for knowledge and experience, in preparation of what they’ll face in future volumes.
Takeaway: More sword than sorcery, this adventure focuses on the rituals of knighthood and coming-of-age as training.
Great for fans of: John Flanagan’s The Ruins of Gorlan, Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, and Pedro Urvi’s The Traitor’s Son.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
TITLE: THE WOLF’S DEN
AUTHOR: Elizabeth R. Jensen
RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)
Three young brothers forge their own paths toward knighthood as war looms in this fast-paced middle grade debut.
While tensions mount on the border of their homeland Etria, three young brothers dream of becoming fierce knights in service to their king. They share an intimidating legacy to uphold, as their grandfather—known as The Wolf, aptly taken from their family name, Wolfensberger—has shown his bravery in the past, his own military prowess enshrined in their historical legends. As they figure out their own strengths and weaknesses, from archery to magic, the three brothers take their own paths toward knighthood. But when war finally arrives on their doorstep and they’re confronted with real, sword-and-arrow wielding enemies, they learn that the cost of greatness is all too real, and their familial bonds can conquer anything.
Though Elizabeth R. Jensen's THE WOLF’S DEN takes place in a fantasy realm full of elemental mages and portal magic, it takes its strongest cues from medieval Europe, where young pages hope to one day become full-fledged knights. The three Wolfensberger brothers—Borus, the steadfast elder son; Kass, the rebellious middle child; Jules, the sensitive mage-in-training—live in the shadow of their cantankerous, no-nonsense grandfather. He’s a highlight of the novel, because underneath his gruff, militaristic exterior lies an unshakable protectiveness of not only his countrymen, but his young grandchildren. The boys’ parents and baby sister drop in and out of the plot, but are always a warm familial presence. It’s these bonds that hold the entire book together through its trials and tribulations.
It does take a bit to get into the novel’s style, as it’s more or less told in a sort of vignette format and covers a few years in the brothers’ lives. Because of this, some aspects of character development/ training happen off the page instead of being shown. Younger readers, however, will likely find the present tense narration engaging and easy to follow.
THE WOLF’S DEN deals with some heavy topics pretty well--like war casualties and the mental effects of battle--giving the novel plenty of high stakes. This vignette style lends itself to a “slice of life” chronicle, where the plot introduces a few different foes to the brewing threat of war on the horizon. There’s rumblings of spies with portal magic, and the boys battle against pirates, bandits, and an old enemy who’s returned to stir up trouble. While the brothers’ paths diverge, the plot becomes more complex, as Jules’ comes to control his unique magic, Kass learns through bloody combat that knighthood isn’t just for glory, and Borus excels at swordsmanship in his lessons at the training school. In all of this, they learn the value of teamwork, friendship, and unyielding loyalty. The plot culminates in a rigorous multi-day training exercise wherein the boys’ skills are put to the ultimate test and their loyalty to each other faces its most difficult challenge. How exactly they come together in the end is cleverly done, and especially satisfying after their separate journeys.
IR Verdict: A charming middle grade fantasy adventure, THE WOLF’S DEN offers an action-packed coming of age story with a medieval inspired setting and a likable cast of characters. Sword and sorcery abound in a captivating first installment.
RATING: 5 stars (out of 5)
Reviewed by Vernita Naylor for Readers’ Favorite
Becoming a knight and fighting for your country represents honor, prestige, and loyalty. In The Wolf's Den: Book One of the Three Brothers Trilogy by Elizabeth R. Jensen, brothers Borus, Kass, and Jules must show their grandfather Wolf that the training they've received will provide the skills needed to be knighted and fight for Etria. This book reflects the art of war which involves strategies, trust, and choices. It had always been the strong desire of each boy to be a knight, to fight, and be a hero like their grandfather. Despite all the lessons learned throughout their childhood, they would each embark on different paths to become a knight. Will these choices help them achieve success or lead to their demise? What impact will their decisions have on Etria?
Despite how close-knit the brothers are in The Wolf's Den by Elizabeth R. Jensen, it was intriguing to learn how they develop their skills and the choices they made. I loved the care Wolf took in evaluating each of his grandsons while encouraging them and strengthening the way they used their skills to prepare for war. Despite the boys being inseparable and understanding what it takes to be a knight, it's their journeys that will determine whether they will present a united front or fall apart and lose the war. If you enjoy this book, Elizabeth has more to come with the follow-up titled The Hawk’s Flight: Book Two of the Three Brothers Trilogy. Enjoy!
LOS ANGELES – American Book Fest announced the winners and finalists of THE 2022 INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS (IBA)on June 3, 2022. Over 400 winners and finalists were announced in over 90 categories. Awards were presented for titles published in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of American Book Fest, said this year’s contest yielded thousands of entries from authors and publishers around the world, which were then narrowed down to the final results.
Keen says of the awards, “The 2022 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the world. IBA’s success begins with the enthusiastic participation of authors and publishers and continues with our distinguished panel of industry judges who bring to the table their extensive editorial, PR, marketing, and design expertise.”
The Wolf's Den: Book One of the Three Brothers Triloogy is an Award-Winning Finalist in the Children's Fiction category of the 2021 International Book Awards
The Wolf's Den and Elizabeth R. Jensen are 3rd Place Award Winners in the Fall 2022 Book Fest Awards for Juvenile - Fantasy & Magic; Website - Overall Design; Cover - Overall Design.