“Territory of the Wolf“ series
Kesytön, “Untamed”: Tammi 2012. 426 pp.
Uhanalainen, “Endangered”: Tammi 2013. 446 pp.
Rights: Elina Ahlbäck Agency www.ahlbackagency.com
The first two volumes in Elina Rouhiainen’s Susiraja series (“Territory of the Wolf”) – Kesytön (“Untamed”, 2012) and Uhanalainen (“Endangered”, 2013) – have got readers whipped up into the sort of frenzy rarely seen in Finland.
Finnish authors who cultivated the theme of paranormal romance before Rouhiainen’s entry onto the stage include Sari Peltoniemi and Maria Turtschaninoff with their books for young adults, as well as Johanna Sinisalo Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (Tammi 2000, UK 2003: Not Before Sundown, US 2006: Troll: A Love Story) for adult readers. Rouhiainen’s use of the werewolf motif also places her novels in a line of succession that goes back to an 85-year-old classic of Finnish literature, The Wolf’s Bride (Sudenmorsian, 1928) by Aino Kallas. Like Kallas before her, Elina Rouhiainen employs elements of Finnish folk tradition in her narrative.
Elina Rouhiainen’s novels owe a clear debt to the Twilight series by the American writer Stephenie Meyer, but there is plenty of Finnish local colour in Rouhiainen’s powerful descriptions of nature. The search for identity, sexuality, and associated pressures are all key influences on the young characters in the Susiraja series.
In Kesytön (“Untamed”), Rouhiainen’s first novel, Raisa is a 17-year-old girl who leaves Helsinki after her mother’s unexpected death to go and live with her uncle, her only remaining relative, in Hukkavaara in east-central Finland. Hukkavaara is a remote location that survives on tourism. However, it is an unusually inward-looking community where people look after themselves, though the methods they employ may be a bit out of the ordinary. Raisa quickly realises she has landed in the middle of a struggle for supremacy among werewolves where the normal rules of life do not apply.
The rugged, hilly landscape and dense woods create a superb contrast with the emotions that flare between Mikael, the alpha male of the tribe, and Raisa. Of course, it is a cliché of the genre that they must struggle with their feelings, both together and alone. In women’s romance novels of the past, love used to cause sparks across social class divides, and society would come up with ever more inventive obstacles to keep lovers from different backgrounds apart. With the rise of these new paranormal romances, the means of exerting pressure within society have become more violent and inflexible.
There is also a feminist element to Elina Rouhiainen’s Susiraja series: the female protagonists question the way the males in the population view women as mere intermediaries for the continuation of the herd.
The key topics in realistic young adult novels have been successfully transferred into Finnish fantasy novels, dystopias and paranormal romance novels. Raisa is traumatised following the death of her mother. She is unable to identify with others her own age and is also suffering with psychological issues. The concept of normality takes on quite different dimensions in Hukkavaara, though.
In the second volume of the Susiraja series, Raisa makes even more use of her own inner strength and the reader gets a real sense that she can overcome the resistance she faces. Gradually Raisa gets an inkling of her special abilities, but even in moments of confusion she tries to focus on her artistic calling.
Päivi Heikkilä-Halttunen, translation Ruth Urbom