The front cover for The Original's Return by David Watkins. The front cover shows a crevice in a forest. The rocks are all covered in moss and light is coming down from above.

The Original’s Return

The Original’s Return by David Watkins

The Original’s Return by David Watkins

Pb, £6.99

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

The front cover for The Original's Return by David Watkins. The front cover shows a crevice in a forest. The rocks are all covered in moss and light is coming down from above.

Jack should be celebrating the birth of his first child. He should be navigating the ups and downs of new parents, the nappies, the sleepless nights, and the pride in the new life he helped create. Instead, he is having nightmares about killing sheep and eating them raw, his body is sprouting fur, there are gaps in his memory, and soldiers are chasing him. No one seems to understand what is happening to him, except, possibly, the homeless guy, Steve, whom Jack met on a beach, but Jack isn’t sure Steve is a person to be trusted.

One of the things that always strikes me about Watkins’ work is how well he combines his stories’ locations with the plot. In The Original’s Return, we are placed in rural Cornwall, a picturesque village with a couple of local pubs, and everyone knows everyone else’s names. A place where people don’t even lock their doors at night. Then he burns that idyllic setting to the ground in blood, guns, and werewolves. But not straight away, of course; that would be too easy, and Watkins is a far better storyteller than that.

The story starts swiftly enough with Jack falling down a hole while out on a run. He comes too, thirty feet down and with the rib of a long dead creature sticking out of him, but when he gets to his feet, the injury has gone. He is rescued and discovers his wife has gone into early labour. Worried for his wife, Jack dismisses his body’s miraculous healing as having never been injured in the first place, just some mild concussion or shock. But the reader knows differently because we also have the view of Sargeant Knowles, who has been sent to spy on Jack after his accident. We can see the perfect storm of Jack’s increasing struggle to control his emotions and body changes, Knowles and his unit closing in around him, and the arrival of Steve and his group, who also want Jack for their purposes. Being able to see these different strands coming together keeps the tension steady throughout the book.

In this story, werewolves among us, including their gods, the Originals. But their gods had either died out or hidden so well in society that, over time, they forgot what they were. We see a little bit of werewolf society, living on the edge, not as powerful as it could be. The Original’s return suggests the start of a new golden age for them. This increases the stakes, as Jack wants to protect his wife and new child against threats he doesn’t fully understand. I appreciated how Jack’s control over his emotions and subsequent werewolf changes coincided with a burning need to protect his young family.

The story finishes on quite a tragic cliffhanger, no spoilers, and a perfect set-up for the second novel, The Original’s Retribution, which is also available on Amazon. While this book was written before his other works that I have reviewed, his style is still strong, with a dedication to detail regarding location and places and a high body count. His descriptions are vivid, and his characters’ motivations are emotive. The Orginial’s Return is a strong start to a duology that breathes new life into the werewolf trope, and it’s a bargain at the price.

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