The werewolf genre, like the vampire genre, is one that can merge itself with many other genres we recognize.
Whether that is romance, horror, science fiction, fantasy, or a whole host of other genres.
This makes it very versatile, with its main defining feature being that of the werewolf itself.
Like vampires, werewolf stories get to the heart of the myth itself. They often have themes of isolation, beastliness, metamorphosis, body dysmorphia, and more.
They are often dark and gothic in their tones or can even be more tongue in cheek.
With a myth that dates back much further than vampires, to Greek myth itself, there is a wealth of werewolf literature for us to choose from.
That said, the werewolf genre is certainly not as saturated as the vampire genre.
In this article, we are going to discuss our favorites, some of which shaped the genre itself, and some which are more modern adaptations of the myth. Keep reading to learn more about werewolves and their literature.
Best Werewolf Books
Find out below some of the most classic and some more modern re-telling of the werewolf myth.
The Phantom Ship is probably the most classic interpretation of the werewolf story, telling the story of the Flying Dutchman ship.
The Flying Dutchman is the legend of a ghost ship that is haunted and can never dock but is destined to forever rule the seas.
A chapter of the book is titled The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains or sometimes called The Werewolf.
This aforementioned tale is what Stoker’s Dracula is to the vampire genre, to the werewolf genre.
The story focuses on Hermann Krantz, a Hungarian nobleman. When he finds his wife cheating on him he murders both his wife and her eloper.
They seek refuge in the Hartz mountains with his children. He finds his lodge is haunted by a white wolf at night and he decides to hunt for its rarity.
He is led deep into the woods and meets a fellow Hungarian Hunter and his child, Christina.
Krantz decides to marry Christina, a beautiful woman with cruelty in her eyes.
The wedding vows require Krantz to never hurt Christina or death will befall his children.
As his children start to mysteriously be killed by wolves, Krantz eventually catches the killer in the act and finds his wife Christina eating his dead child’s body.
After shooting her, her body turns into a wolf. Having broken his wedding vow, Krantz is forever haunted by mountain spirits.
Ultimately the story is one of dangerous femininity. Krantz is haunted by his original wife’s misgivings and kills her for cheating on him.
But Krantz finds a woman far worse than his wife in Christina, the inversion of femininity, motherhood, and marriage creates this horrific and gothic image that is undoubtedly feminist in its sentiment.
- Feminist story from the 1800s
- Classic gothic tale
- Is a good blending of genres with horror
- The Werewolf tale is only one chapter of the book
- Uses older language some modern readers will struggle with.
King has dabbled in most horror myths, such as vampires, and in this short story, he deals with that of the werewolf.
This short story perpetuates some classic tropes of the genre such as a full moon, and silver bullets, as well as more religious undertones to the myth.
The novel is set in Tarker’s Mills, Maine and each chapter depicts a different month of the year and a separate killing of the werewolf that occurs on the full moon of each month.
The protagonist is a wheelchair-bound, 10 year old paraplegic, called Marty.
Each month he recounts the murder of someone unknowingly at the hands of the werewolf.
This is until July when Independence Day occurs, Marty is setting off fireworks in his yard with his uncle until the werewolf attacks him and he gets away by shooting it in the eye with a firework.
Marty eventually sees his local Reverend wearing an eye patch and sends him anonymous letters asking him why he doesn’t kill himself to end the pain and killings.
The novel continues through to December when it reaches its conclusion.
There is an interesting dichotomy between Marty who is bound to his wheelchair and the werewolf that has power beyond what he can conceive.
Moreover, there is a classic struggle between good and evil, with the werewolf likely not able to control its urges on the full moon. If you want a classic werewolf story this is it.
- Classic werewolf tale
- Good blend with horror which is classic of King
- Perhaps quite short
- Not too much explanation of the werewolf itself.
This is an interesting blend of werewolf fiction with historical fiction, telling the tale of a werewolf within the historical events of the Franco Prussian War and the Paris Commune of 1870-71.
The book is also classically gothic, opening with a classic frame narrative where the narrator, an American, comes across ‘The Galliez Report’ an unsolicited defense of Sergeant Bertrand Calliet in France’s court martial against him in 1871.
Bertrand was born to his Mother who was a victim of non-consensual coitus with a member of the cursed Pitamont clan.
Bertrand has strange sexual and sadistic urges as a result, usually expressed in dreams.
In these dreams, he recounts memories of transforming into a wolf.
Aymar Galliez who raises Bertrand with his mother, the step-brother of the latter, learns of these thoughts.
Bertrand eventually flees Paris after a series of unsavory acts, and Galliez tries to find him by investigating local murders.
Bertrand eventually joins the Franco Prussian War and falls in love with a girl named Sophie, not a werewolf but with similar masochism to Bertrand.
Aymar finds Bertrand in the Paris Commune, a revolutionary government that seized power in Paris during the war, but Bertrand is eventually sequestered after killing a fellow soldier.
Aymar and the government attempt to try to cure Bertrand of his mental ills, with the former not aware of his affliction.
The werewolf of the story is used by Ednore to epitomize the brutality and violent political climate of France during the Franco Prussian War, where execution and brutality were the main solutions to revolution at home, being mirrored on the frontier of the war.
If you enjoy the mixing of real history with myth, the werewolf myth, in this case, the novel is ideal.
- Blends history and werewolf myth well
- Uses the werewolf myth to make legitimate reflections on real historical events
- The novel has very dark subject matters
- Some may not enjoy the in-depth evaluation of historical events
This is a work of young adult fiction by Klause that depicts her own imaginations of the origins of werewolves, or what are referred to as loup-garoux in the story.
Klause imagines that werewolves are a species of their own, a tribe of ancient hunters blessed by the moon goddess Selene whom they worship.
Loup-garou simply means werewolf in French
The novel centers around Vivian, a 16 year old loup-garou, a member of a pack of werewolves who attempts to blend into society to withhold their secret.
Having moved into a new town after their secret was revealed by a bloodthirsty member of their pack in a previous town, the novel’s events begin.
Vivian is generally a loner in her school but is enchanted by a boy named Aiden who is writing a poem about werewolves that is actually pretty accurate to the truth of the loup-garoux.
Originally thinking he is a werewolf himself, she is disappointed to find out he is a normal human.
Her pack has a lot of political unrest, with many of the males being unruly and out of control. In an act to discover the new leader, the males have a free for fall brawl where Gabriel emerges as the leader.
Gabriel is doted on by older members of the females in the pack, particularly Vivian’s mother, Esmé, and another female Astrid.
The women then have a free for all fight to decide the mate of the new leader.
When Esmé and Astrid begin fighting, Vivian uncontrollably protects her mother and in this act defeats Astrid in battle, accidentally landing herself as Gabriel’s mate.
The lengthy novel centers around Vivian and this lover’s quarrel with the human she loves, Aiden, who won’t accept her in her beastly form, and the new leader of the pack, and her mate, who she loathes, Gabriel.
The novel was well-received by many for its unique narrative, the indulgence of werewolf myth, and its interesting love story.
If you want a werewolf version of Twilight where the supernatural beast is a woman doting over a human male, this novel executes that narrative very well.
It is a young adult novel so it can be a little steamy and tongue in cheek for some readers.
- Elucidates on the werewolf myth and origin story in an interesting and detailed way
- Has a good story underneath the werewolf myth
- Some won’t enjoy the sexualized content
- As a young adult novel, the tone may be wrong for some readers.
This is a particularly unique work of werewolf fiction that attempts to separate itself directly from older werewolf myth, while also separating itself from traditional prose in many ways.
One quote from the novel is ‘It’s not the full moon. / That’s as ancient and ignorant as any myth.’
For the most part, though, we can describe most of the characters as werewolves, but following Barlow’s logic they are more akin to general shapeshifters.
The beast they transform into is more similar to a dog and much less humanoid in its features.
The shapeshifters describe each other as dogs, and to humans, they appear as dogs, albeit large and intelligent dogs.
The novel mainly centers around three dog packs, and a ‘dog-catcher’ named Anthony, the latter being what unifies the three packs beyond them operating in the same location.
Each pack has its own unique hierarchy that is mainly affected by the strategy they use to blend into society in their human form.
The events mainly center around how these three packs navigate society as humans, as well as how they interact with each other in the world of LA which they inhabit.
One noteworthy feature of the novel is its use of free verse rather than your common prose.
This serves to defamiliarize the reader from how they may read another novel, and as they become used to how the free verse operates they in turn become more familiar with the dogs themselves, demonstrating how the dogs have a skewed perception of generic human life as a result of their shapeshifting abilities.
In turn, the novel shifts between many points of view of both shapeshifters, in both humanoid and dog form, as well as generic humans who encounter the dogs.
The novel is unique, deviates from the common werewolf myth, but does well to present a view of human life from the point of view of the dogs, partly thanks to its non-conventional use of free verse.
If you want to read something quite different and challenging, but rewarding, Barlow’s work is worth a read.
- Successfully demonstrates the skewed view of human society a shapeshifter would have
- Successful irony and dark humor
- Shifts between violence slower paced observation, and touching moments well.
- Some won’t enjoy the ambitious use of free verse
- Not your classic werewolf novel
- Can be a challenging read for some.
Many people associate Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series with vampires, which is fair, but in the second novel of the series, New Moon, the events of this novel are much heavier in their description of Jacob the werewolf.
‘New moon’ is a reference to old werewolf lore of their shape-shifting being triggered by a full moon, albeit this isn’t something the werewolves of the Twilight series abide by.
Jacob appears in the first novel as a family friend but in this second novel, it is revealed he is a werewolf.
After the events of the first novel, Bella enters a deep depression after Edward leaves her life.
Jacob, worried for her, attempts to pull her out of the depression which works.
Jacob is the antithesis of Edward, literally warm to the touch, masculine, strong, and importantly he loves Bella.
When Jacob’s friend Paul is slapped by Bella, the former shapeshifts into his wolf form, causing Jacob to do so in the protection of the latter.
Jacob is one of the stronger ones in the pack and defeats Paul in Bella’s defense.
In other scenes of the book the vampire Laurent tries to catch Bella but she is again saved by Jacob and his pack, the Quileutes.
The Quileutes are an ancient tribe of werewolves, in their backstory, the Quileutes and vampires are sworn enemies, a common idea in the fantasy myth of werewolves.
Yet, the form of wolf that Jacob and his pack take is not in line with the general werewolf myth.
Rather than being humanoid in their form, the Quileutes actually take the form of generic wolves, close to the dire wolf – dire wolves are a real wolf species but have been extinct for a long time.
Yet, in the novel, they can travel at close to 100 mph at a full run.
- A different take on werewolf myths
- Shows vampires and werewolves inhabiting the same fictional world
- Unique comparisons of vampires and werewolves in the respective characters
- Blends both romance and fantasy genre
- Part of a wider series
- Some won’t enjoy the romance story
This first novel from Kelley Armstrong tells the story of the only known female werewolf in the world.
In this world created by Kelley Armstrong when bitten by a werewolf, you can turn into one, like a vampire, which happened to our main character, Elena.
In Bitten there are hereditary werewolves and non-hereditary werewolves like Elena who were bitten and not killed.
Once turned into a werewolf in Bitten, the werewolves undergo a painful change into the werewolf.
The werewolf form is not humanoid but is more similar to a dire wolf as seen before.
They usually maintain their hair color and their body mass to a degree.
Not affected by phases of the moon they can even transmogrify a single body part into werewolf form.
In human form, they still exhibit some nonvisual elements of a wolf, better hearing, smell, and reactions.
The plot of the novel follows Elena as she tries to assimilate her otherness into normal society, even having a human boyfriend.
But she is called back to the Pack, the self-acclaimed governing body of werewolves when their pack is in trouble.
It seems that a local human has been killed by a non-Pack werewolf, werewolves not recognized by the Pack are known as Mutts.
Elena is thrust back into her old life, meeting her old lover Clayton who non-consensually turned her into a werewolf.
The two investigate the murder and attempt to find the rogue Mutt, but unravel a conspiracy that suggests the Mutts are trying to overthrow the governing body of the Pack.
There are clear feminist and gender theory themes within the novel, Elena deals with her otherness in the world, alluding to how women deal with their own otherness in the real world.
- Interesting take on werewolf myth
- The compelling female main character
- Obvious feminist themes that can fall flat
This novel from Carringer has a unique take on werewolf and vampire myth many readers may enjoy, which merges this fantasy genre with other genres like romance but notably steampunk.
It is also an alternate history novel that depicts an alternate reality of Victorian-era England where vampires and werewolves are commonplace.
The novel’s main character is Alexia Tarabotti, being of Italian descent this places her interestingly among the Victorian hierarchy depicted, but she is also ‘soulless’.
This means she is fairly immune to the attacks of the vampires and werewolves that are established in Carriger’s imagining of Victorian England.
Her main weapon is her parasol which she is adept at using for combat.
After she kills a vampire that attacks her, Queen Victoria sends an investigator, a werewolf, to find out what happened.
Alexia ends up embroiled in a wider conspiracy as more vampires end up being killed, and Alexia ends up being the prime suspect.
As the prime suspect, she must both solve the mystery and clear her own name within the complicated social balance of Victorian England.
The novel is a romp with quite a lot going on, appealing to a broad array of fans.
There is a lot of irony and sarcastic humor entangled both in the maintenance of decorum in Victorian England all while werewolves and vampires are serious members of the social rambo.
There is also a love plot in the story itself, with Alexia being a spinster looking for love.
- Carriger does well to create an intoxicating setting
- Has wide appeal to many fans due to its blending of multiple genres
- Pretty fast-paced
- Can feel a little silly to some readers due to the dry humor
- Some readers find the plot a little repetitive
This is an interesting book within the werewolf genre. It tells the coming of age story of a boy growing up among werewolves.
The boy is mixed blood, part werewolf, part human.
Interestingly, the novel mainly centers around whether the main character will actually turn as the rest of his family has or if he is simply just a human destined to live in normalcy.
Throughout the novel the unnamed narrator, the boy, has multiple identity crises as he awaits to see if he is a werewolf, like any normal pubescent boy, alternating between phases.
The book is humorous at points, and at other points is poignant and emotional.
The novel is fun as it uses the otherness of being a werewolf, or not in this case, as a vehicle for a wider message about finding identity as a teenager.
Graham Jones himself is Native American, which he attributes also to his main character, and the novel is a clear expression of his own diaspora navigating his race in the US.
The novel focuses on its own characters more than it does general werewolf lore and does not necessarily adhere to common understandings of werewolves.
Instead, Graham Jones creates his own lore surrounding werewolves that is in part humorous.
This makes the novel unique with its own inside jokes that are emblematic of the teenager who narrates them.
If you are looking for a unique werewolf novel where the focus of the story is not necessarily the werewolf factor, but used instead as a unique presentation of a coming of age story, that is about much more than fantasy werewolves, but about race and otherness itself, Stephen Graham Jones’ Mongrels is for you.
- Uses the werewolf genre to tell a wider story
- Coming of age story
- Humorous and ironic
- Isn’t the purest example of werewolf literature
- If you don’t like the author’s voice then the story doesn’t hit home as well.
As you can see werewolf novels are really versatile and as they dip into so many other genres there is a wide appeal of the werewolf story, being able to make comments on race, gender, otherness itself, as well as romance, and much more.
Whether you want a classic werewolf story that imagines how they may operate in society, or want something that uses the wolf myth as a vehicle for a wider message that can be relevant to our real lives, there are many books to choose from.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Old Is The Werewolf Myth?
Unlike vampires, you can actually trace the myth of the werewolf back to the Grecian myth itself.
There is the story of the Arcadian King Lyacon who tried to test Zeus by serving him meat from his own dead son, to see if the all-powerful Zeus was as clever as the legends told.
As punishment, Zeus turned him into a wolf and killed his sons.
Beyond this, there are many folklore tales, particularly in Eastern Europe, about men and women who can shapeshift into beasts, including the wolf.
In medieval periods the werewolf was actually quite benign, being more of a victim of sorcery and evil magic, succumbing to the king as a knight’s errand.
In terms of literature, the earliest example of a wolf-to-man transformation is in the Epic of Gilgamesh from the second millennium BC which is arguably one of the oldest texts out there.
Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, was in love with Gilgamesh, yet, when he rejected her advances because of her history with previous suitors.
Gilgamesh recounts how one suitor was turned into a wolf by Ishtar because she grew bored of his advances and worship of her, leading to his own death as he was a shepherd and his own dogs tore him to shreds.
While neither necessarily talk about werewolves directly but show how the werewolf curse is something often given by gods in anger, rather than something used for power.
It’s easy to see how countless stories came from these ancient descriptions of werewolf transformations.