Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wolf's Haven (Caedmon Wolves #1) by Ambrielle Kirk

 Tamara is escaping an abusive relationship while she still can. She has a plan, she makes her escape – but it all goes horribly wrong. Until a wolf arrives, an actual wolf, that carries her to safety and away from her abusers.

She wakes in a cabin in the woods, with Devin, the wolf shifter and begins to learn to trust him, even as he carefully takes care of her and her injuries.

But Devin has his own issues, his pack is leaderless and the only contender is a wolf that will stop at nothing for power and could destroy the pack. Unless Devin himself is willing to assume the role of alpha; something he has been desperately avoiding

And adding a human woman to the mix won’t make it any easier.

My overall feel is one of frustration because I think a lot could have been made of this book if it were a lot longer, the themes well developed and the story told over a greater period of time. As it is, too many of potentially great storylines in this book were compacted leaving them either lacking impact or worse.

Take Tamara’s flight from an abusive relationship. Parts of this were done so extremely well. Looking at the pain she felt and suffered – but also the shame, that little myth that she should have been smarter than to tolerate an abusive relationship, that it was her fault is touched on and briefly, but very well explored. Or Devin being careful around her, acknowledges that she has reasonable fears and that he has to be sure not to ever intimidate her and ensure she knows he won’t hurt her. The courage she showed to escape, the effort it took, the fear – all very well done. And then she leaves her abuser, has a magical wolfy ride and ends up isolated, not taking calls from her therapist and advisor, with a completely strange man in the middle of nowhere. She spends a week in complete isolation with him, at the end of which she sort-of-marries him and moves into his life. There was none of her getting her strength back, none of her finding herself, none of her healing or growing or asserting herself as a person or a woman – there just wasn’t time.

Or there’s Devin’s fight over the leadership of this pack. There’s no build up, there’s no exploration of the history – of his fraught relationship with his father, of his lack of acceptance in the pack, of the importance of finding a mate, of this whole prophecy that’s apparently going on and how that involves him. We could have done to have seen some of his isolation or seen how the pack works or seen exactly the how and why of his evil cousin (this is about all we know about evil cousin, he’s evil).

Even some world building - what is a Caedemon, where do they come from? Why? What are the seers? What does it all actually mean? It’s all so very unfilled out. And the knowledge we did get – character histories, relationships, everything has been entirely done through info-dumps, usually in the form of internal character monologues. It’s all tell, with no show at all.

Aside from under-development of some really promising characters and themes, the speed of the book also negatively impacts the romance. They go from complete strangers to true love in about as week which is always something that puts me off any romance, but doubly so when Tamara has just escaped from an abusive relationship literally hours before the first meeting and is in such a vulnerable and isolated position afterwards. It’s a shame because they do so much that is right in the relationship, draw back on the whole “RAWR M AH WOMAN” whichj is very common in  paranormal romance and almost required the minute werewolves raise their fuzzy muzzles (though he has a possessive moment when a friend speaks to her proving that they’re destined to be mated – ugh, I hate jealousy = proof of love thing. But it’s brief, especially for a romance). It would have been one of the extremely good romances in the genre, lacking so many of the tropes we know and loathe (ok, except the penis size one – that was too much to ask. Wrist thick… I assume she has dainty dainty wrists) if it weren’t fast tracked.

The writing in general was decent but needed a copy editor. We have some words that are inappropriately used and some clumsy sentences. Despite that, the sex scenes actually flowed fairly well without dragging on for a gazillion pages. I think there’s a word abuse issue with “pussy” and it’s a bit jarring to hear these very gently spoken people cussing like sailors in the sack but they’re much better done than many I’ve read.

I think this is the first book in a series, so some of these may be developed – but I think  they needed to be developed here and now because many of them have already been resolved – there’s no real hooks for a next book, the storylines have all been closed off – and closed off hurriedly. Which is a shame, there’s some great characters here, an interesting if not exactly unique world. There’s a lot of meat to develop, there’s a lot of topics being addressed with maturity and with nuance and the protagonist was a women of Colour. She's mixed race, Native American and Black which is unusual in a genre where mixed-race inevitably means "White and other". But the book was told at 16x speed, had massive info dumps and felt almost like a sprint through the character development and backing so we could reach the relationship and the sex faster.

I’m frustrated. This could very easily be awesome, if it takes its time and lets itself be awesome.

 A copy of this book was provided by the author to review