REVIEW: ‘Luna: Wolf Moon’ howls with action and intrigue

wolf moon
(jacket art by Victor Mosquera / Tor Books)
[Reviewer’s noteWhile this review contains *no spoilers* for Luna: Wolf Moon, it is impossible to write about a sequel without giving away some of the things that occur in the previous novel in the series.]


Ian McDonald’s well-received Luna: New Moon (2015) was hailed by more than one critic as “Game of Thrones in space.” McDonald himself called it “Dallas on the moon,” while others compared it to Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) or Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (1969). Those comparisons will continue with Luna: Wolf Moon.

The series takes place on Earth’s moon in the 22nd Century. Here powerful industrial families, called the Five Dragons, rule. But at the end of New Moon, only four Dragons remain after the destruction Corta Helio at the hands of Mackenzie Metals. Set two years later, Wolf Moon describes the efforts of the surviving Cortas to take their revenge or to merely survive in this harsh environment without their family’s wealth and power.

“Wolf Howl. Anime,” by lovetoberandom

The title refers, at least in part, to Wagner Corta, who had been disowned prior to his family’s fall for being a moon wolf—someone suffering from bipolar disorder. But on the moon, a wolf “can make it into something more. What the wolves have done is given a social frame to it, a culture that accepts it and supports it. Nourishes it.” Every fifteen days, with the help of medication, Wagner and his pack switch between light and shadow aspects, attuned to the rotation of the moon around the Earth.

Wagner’s older brother Lucas Corta was set to take over the family’s empire in New Moon and so he is the Mackenzie’s primary target. To survive—and plot his revenge—he does the impossible. A moonborn like Lucas is physically unable to withstand Earth’s gravity. Yet he undergoes a brutal physical therapy regimen to prepare his body for unimaginable pressure as he returns to his family’s ancestral home in Brazil. There he recruits a distant cousin, Alexia Corta, to help him navigate terrestrial politics. But how can he take revenge in this alien world where every breath is torture?

New Moon received well-deserved praise for its depictions of sexuality and gender identity. Wolf Moon likely will as well. McDonald’s moon is full of characters from all over the sexuality spectrum, including asexual Ariel Corta, who is attempting to a career in politics after her family’s collapse. And one of the few characters portrayed in an almost totally positive light is trans, the wise Vidhya Rao who advises Ariel on her climb back to the top of lunar society.

author ian mcdonald
Author Ian McDonald (Rex Features)

Luna: Wolf Moon continues to develop the complex characters and fascinating setting established in Luna: New Moon, but never skimps on page-turning action. Although incomplete, Ian McDonald’s saga already outpaces Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) as the definitive lunar epic. With at least one more book to go, the fate of the moon—and of the Earth on which it depends—remains very much in doubt.

About Matt Hlinak

Matt Hlinak
Matt Hlinak is an administrator at Dominican University, just outside of Chicago. He teaches courses in English and legal studies. His short stories have appeared in 'Sudden Flash Youth' (Persea Books 2011) and several literary magazines. 'DoG' (2012) is his debut novel.