5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Koan (Wolf’s-own #3) by Carole Cummings

I think I’ll just take a Xanax and a bottle of gin and go curl up in a corner now because, let me tell you, if I didn’t have some sort of anxiety disorder before reading Koan, I think I do now.

I was going to make that my review. Just that. But please, I could never limit myself to just that where this series is concerned. It’s too much fun to try and analyze it, for me not to give it my full and undivided love and attention.

Years ago, I read a book by the late Joseph Campbell titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Originally published in 1949, Mr. Campbell set out to formulate a template for the hero’s journey, one in which the name of the hero doesn’t really matter because he is every one. What matters is the journey itself and how the protagonist of the story progresses through his or her quest, suffers all the trials and heartbreaks, dies the spiritual death, is purified, is reborn, and ultimately achieves a oneness of body and soul to collect the boon at the journey’s end. Now, that’s not to say that Joseph Campbell originated the concept of the monomyth, only that he named it and drew the lines to show the archetypes and alchemy of that journey. Since I read this, as well as his book The Power of Myth, I have to say I’ve never looked at another book in quite the same way again. In fact, I think I quit reading altogether. Now I just obsess.

And Jacin is my latest obsession. Jacin himself is a template. He is a trinity. He is the hero with three faces who has died a thousand small deaths. He is Fen and Jacin and Jacin-rei. He is Incendiary and Catalyst and Untouchable. And somehow, some way, this deadly beauty must find a way to tie all he is together and make peace with the scar that is his soul so that he may be reborn yet again. But now, he must carry on with this journey alone, to discover how to be human—not again, but for the first time. For the first time, he has given someone the gift of his name, his true name, because somewhere deep inside, he knows his name will be safe on the tongue of the one to whom he’s gifted it. The name is not insignificant, in spite of what one would have Jacin believe. Jacin has received the talisman, the unspoken promise of protection against the danger through which he is about to pass, that will help him in his quest, until the one who gifted it to him can return—I hope as the ultimate gift for Jacin.

Jacin has learned that in order to gain, he must also lose. That’s the Balance of Fate in the world in which he lives. If Jacin wants and hopes and needs and reaches out, it can be destroyed, so he’s learned not to allow himself the impulse. He has learned that he cannot want, because if he wants, he hopes; if he hopes, he feels; if he feels, he is vulnerable. If he’s vulnerable, he can no longer hide in the shadows because the shadows are no longer a part of who he is. He is exposed, raw, frightened, in pain, and once again a target and a tool in a deadly game between the gods and the banpair, the energy vampires who feed upon the power of emotions, and Jacin is their all-you-can-eat-buffet.

Sometimes the best way to describe what something is, is to describe what it isn’t. Jacin isn’t whole. He isn’t crazy, nor is he sane. He isn’t untouchable, nor is he unlovable. He isn’t perfect, nor is he invincible. He has been touched and he has been loved, but he isn’t ready to accept that he is worthy of either, nor does he know how to get to that point of acceptance yet. He isn’t a fool, nor is he free. He has not discovered that his life has meaning because he has not yet discovered the meaning of his life. He isn’t the Ghost, but he isn’t quite human either. Jacin isn’t your archetypical hero. He must fly to fall and fall to fly–to do that, he must let go.

”It is yours to reach for the light.” Jacin must find the light to escape the shadows. And I hope its brilliance is enough to burn away the damage of all that he’s endured. I hope that light is incendiary.

Buy Koan (Wolf’s-own #3) HERE.


8 thoughts on “Koan (Wolf’s-own #3) by Carole Cummings

  1. Oh my goodness. I never know what to say when you write something like this. I swear, there’s this beauty to it all, and it always makes me think ‘Wow, did I really do that? Was all that in something I wrote?’

    Not many *get* things like what you talk about here. I feel like you know the characters as well as I do, and that’s very unusual. I think we talked once about connection, didn’t we? This is it right here. I don’t have the words to tell you what it means to me.

    I’m so glad you liked it, Lisa. and you’re right–that first paragraph could’ve done it. But I’m really glad you didn’t leave it at that. This is really quite beautiful, and it makes me all teary that you found it affecting. I hope book four is everything you want it to be.

    Thank you for this.


    • ::hugs, love:: My biggest fear, always, is that I feel all these things and put them out there and then wonder if I’m wrong. :-/ But these are the things that Jacin inspires in me when I’m with him and he’s struggling and suffering through all these tests on his journey. They’re what you make me feel, I guess. LOL.

      Malick inspires a whole other set of feelings, but with his overwhelming presence in the book coming largely from the huge hole he left when he went to spirit, this one was really all about Jacin for me. I hope that when Mal returns, that in itself will be a catalyst for Jacin to come to terms with the meaning of his existence and that he’ll be able to find the courage and the strength to let himself fly and fall, knowing that Mal will be the one there to catch him.

      I have hope that with Jacin giving Malick the gift of his name that it means Jacin is, somewhere deep down, making that a long-term investment. What better way to say “I love you” without really saying the words–“Here’s the gift of my name because there’s no safer place for it to be than on your lips. Don’t make me regret gifting you with it.”

      Right or wrong, that’s the way I see it. :)

      I am so wrung out, but can’t wait for Incendiary. :-D I don’t think there’s anything, and I mean anything, you could do right now that would disappoint me. I mean that sincerely because, regardless of what happens, even if you decide that everyone has to go to spirit to fulfill some sort of prophesy, I know that the direction you take me will be exactly where I’m meant to follow.


      • I think you see things very clearly. The interesting (and hugely frustrating) thing about Jacin to me is that he overthinks and overthinks and thinks in circles, and he feels *so much* that he ends up really having no idea what it is he’s actually feeling. I think if he said ‘I love you’ in any other way right now, it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s so very true for him–he does love Malick–but it can’t really be *true* until he knows it. It’s always been my opinion that Malick–for all his big talk–really does know better what Jacin’s feeling than Jacin does. Good thing someone does. ;)

        The first two books were about Malick becoming who he needed to be. The second two are about Jacin learning to be an actual person. He’s got more obstructions than most people when it comes to that… but he’s also got more in him than most people, too. I hope you’ll be pleased with what he learns and how he learns it.

        And not everyone goes to spirit. ;)

        You’re the very best, Lisa. I love that you’re out there and I love that you get it.


        • Do you know what I’m obsessing over now? Morin and the fish he got at the shop of needful things. :-D The more I learn about Morin, the more I love him. I get a bit frustrated with Joori, not because I dislike him but because he’s trying so hard to cling to a Jacin that probably never was anything more than a figment of Joori’s hopes and imagination. I love that for all of Morin’s history with Jacin, he is the one who sees Jacin for exactly who Jacin is and is willing to let his brother be who he needs to be and who he’s meant to be.

          You know, when I called Jacin a “deadly beauty” I was thinking of the fish, put together in the single bowl and fighting to the death. The way I saw that scene is that, in a way, those two fish represented Jacin and all the things he struggles with and fights for and against that are compartmentalized within his soul. Those things battle within him until he’s left raw and bleeding from it. (Figuratively speaking.)

          And now I see Morin poking at his fish to try to get a reaction from it, but is disappointed that the fish just bobs there in the water. This is so much like he pokes at Jacin, I think. And instead of two fish, he has twin brothers–two fish in separate bowls. So, yeah, Morin and the fish I’m still ciphering. :-D


  2. OMG, Lisa, are you in my brain?!?!?! And that’s all I’m going to say, but you’ll know what it means after you’ve read 4.

    And after you’ve read it, ask me what my single biggest regret was about the resolution of the family dynamics in this story. Actually, don’t–tell me yours and I’ll bet I’ll be asking you again if you’re in my brain. ;)


    • Yay! Homework. :) This is why I said I rarely “just read” anymore. I love to do a bit of poking myself, just to see what I can tease out of the characters and the stories. When things elude me I get a little frustrated, because sometimes there’s just nothing there that I can see but what’s on the surface of it. That makes me feel like I’m missing something. I don’t like to miss out on anything. ;-)


  3. Will says:

    “Joseph Campbell titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Originally published in 1949, Mr. Campbell set out to formulate a template for the hero’s journey, one in which the name of the hero doesn’t really matter because he is every one. What matters is the journey itself and how the protagonist of the story progresses through his or her quest,..” This has been expanded on in a BIG WAY at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html


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