Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kept by Shawntelle Madison Book 2 in the Coveted Series

At the end of Coveted, Natalya Stravinsky had battled alongside her friends and fellow pack members to protect their hunting land from invasion. Through therapy, she was working through her issues with OCD and hoarding.  When a flood had wrecked most of her precious Christmas ornaments, her family came together and for the first time since having a serious panic attack at a clan event, the Stravinsky family embraced Natalya.  All in all, things were looking up. Though Coveted ended in a happy place, it was clear that Natalya still had a lot of issues to deal with.

At the beginning of Kept, we see that the family bond between Natalya and the other Stravinskys has only grown stronger. The question is, has she grown strong enough to deal with the trials awaiting her?  Natalya is determined to get back into the pack, though all of the werewolves still see her as strange. When she takes on her father's blood debt, the task assigned is much more difficult than she could have imagined.  Being banned from taking any aid from another werewolf, Natalya is once again forced to rely on her friends from her therapy group, thus bringing herself closer to Nick the wizard.  Something sparks between them, but she is not sure if she can let go of her feelings for Throne, the alpha apparent of the pack.  If nothing else, the completion of this task will ensure that the Stravinsky clan will be able to remain in the pack with honour.  As Natalya tries to work out her feelings for the two men that she loves, Thornes betrothed is not the least bit pleased that such a low ranking wolf still occupies his heart. 

Having an ass kicking protagonist is not new in urban fantasy.  In fact, it happens so often that it's almost a cliche.  Natalya has a touch of the spunky agent in her, in that she rushes off without thinking things through clearly. Her motivations are good and she is most certainly honourable, but rushing into action without any plans whatsoever is ridiculous. It puts her in a position to call for help because she is overwhelmed and not because she has wisely decided that she needs it.

One of the things that I loved about this series from the very beginning, is the myriad of disabled characters.  I said it in the last review but it bears repeating, this is something rare for urban fantasy and I absolutely love it.  Madison could have taken the opportunity in this book to show growth of Natalya's character by erasing her disability.  We have too often seen disability cast aside in the media, when it become inconvenient because it is time to see a character grow and change. While Natalya does not spend as much time caressing and loving her ornaments in this book, it's clear that her OCD is in full swing, even as she battles the bad guys and takes on difficult challenges. Natalya just doesn't play "super crip" and rise above, she still performs acts like obsessive hand washing and wiping everything down with antibacterial wipes, as she fights for her family and her place.

Like Coveted, Kept is filled with warmth.  The reoccurring themes are family, pack, honour and love. We don't get as much of the Russian culture in this novel, but that was pretty well established in the first book.  Instead, what we get is a widening of the world.  We already know that there is a large supernatural presence in Madison's creation and this time she gives us wider knowledge about each species, as well as a bit of a pecking order to understand the distribution of power.  In an interesting twist, we learn that though werewolves are loathe to perform magic, they are themselves magic, whereas other creatures like wizards, perform magic through them.

Unlike the first book, Kept feels more like a traditional romance.  It's clear now that Nick wants more than friendship from Natalya, and though Natalya knows that she and Thorne should not be together, they continue to love and want each other.  It's a clear case of a love triangle. Being with each man has long ranging consequences and Natalya must chose to either follow her heart, or her soul.  Sappy I know, but when you read it, you won't be able to help rooting for one of the men. I do have to say that Natalya didn't choose the man I wanted. 

I sat and read this book in one day, wrapped in a warm blanket.  The story was entertaining and full of passion.  I was completely drawn into Madison's world and sad when I came to the end of the story.  All of the characters were really well developed and though I am not a fan of romance, it added a nice element to this story.  Natalya grew so much as a protagonist and even more importantly, Madison made sure that it was understood that people living with disabilities can be strong and dependable.  Though she was continually shamed and treated and face disableism, Natalya kept forging forward.  She hasn't quite reached the point where she has realised that the fault is not with her but others but it is clear that Madison is leaning this way.  I know I fanpoodled a lot writing this review but I love this series and reading it is the perfect way to spend a rainy day on the couch.

Editors Note: A copy of this book was received from Netgalley