The werewolf packs exist in peace and hidden from humanity. But a lot of that peace and secrecy can be put down the efforts of one man, the king of the werewolves, the Dyre
And he’s now death – much to the horror of Des, the woman who was oathsworn to protect him
Ruby is the old Dyre’s heir – a newly turned human who has a whole lot to learn before she can step in his shoes even with Des’s guidance and protection. And it’s not just werewolf history and politics she has to grasp – the death of the Dyre was only the first step in someone’s vicious plan.
Werewolves! Always fun to follow – werewolves and politics even more so since it’s usually vampires who play the political game. Different clans and families with their own histories and their own conflicts and rivalries. We have nice little side studies with a pack that was an outsider and worked their way up with new progressive changes to the rules which causes, of course, resentments. There’s some nice work gone into this political system.
The characters are interesting as well – Des and Ruby both have an edge of tragic past – and Des does love her angst. But unlike eighty billion characters out there, her angst doesn’t manifest as Keille Independence. She’s a capable fighter – a clearly dangerous one – but that doesn’t make her a violent rage machine either. I like them both for their skill, their power and the general lack of tropes. I want to follow their story
I want to be invested in the relationship between Des and Ruby – after all it’s a loving, sexual relationship with lots of passion and thought. Werewolf culture is happily free from homophobia (something I like – I mean, if you are going to create a whole new society of supernaturals and actually have no humans in the cast, why should they have the same prejudices as we do?) so both Des and Ruby being together – and Ruby being with other women before that (Or Ruby’s brother being in a relationship with another man) – doesn’t raise any objections or unnecessary homophobia scenes or clumsy teaching us that it’s wrong – and just introduces them as loving, caring, sexual beings who have fun and are defined by other traits than their sexuality and are refreshingly lacking in tropes and stereotypes. Even Jaime, who is “latent” so not a werewolf still makes a point of showing his strength and capability even as a latent (they don’t follow the
In other words – it’s one of the few depictions of gay and bisexual people that is good and didn’t make me cringe or rage. Even the bisexual love triangle actually seems to be focusing on the women coming out ahead. It’s glorious to see and, honestly, I would read every book just for that alone. Not one, but two same-sex couples who don’t make me want to break things? And two of them are the protagonists? I may cast it in gold and keep it forever. If it weren’t an ebook anyway…
The problems I have with this relationship are not related to it being a same sex relationship which is wonderfully refreshing. The problems I have with it are classic romantic tropes. Literally the very first time Des sees Ruby when she’s conscious (and not splattered with the blood of her nice father figure) she comes on to her. I mean, she’s not given her 10 seconds to get used to being a werewolf or someone dying in front of her and she makes her move. On top of that Ruby turns her down – not because the damn blood hasn’t dried yet but because she has had the Tragic Romantic Past which means she can Never Have Love Again and is why she’s a Gently Used Heroine so she can be a virgin when love interest #2 shows up (love interest #2 doesn’t seem to trip the whole terribad past so much)
I mean I can get the wish to want the relationship to be a slower burn – hey I completely support and celebrate that, I hate love at first sight. But have it be a slow burn – we have enough distractions in the plot without the need to have this barrier laden relationship. We have enough with training and sharing histories and friendship growing into more than a friendship without having the coming-on-to-her-as-soon-as-she’s-conscious and the tragic-romantic-history-that-is-conveniently-forgotten,
Many of the cast are also POC. Des, one of the protagonists, is Latina. Ruby is Black. Des’s step mother, Philomena is Black (her storyline isn’t entirely unproblematic – but the fact she isn’t the only Black woman in the book and doesn’t share the same tropes as her helps immensely with that). One of the leading werewolf Alphas is Native American and one of the more involved members of the Alpha council.
None of these characters are “ambiguously” described. We see Des’s Spanish speaking relative – and her own use of Spanish. The Black characters are clearly labelled as such, nor are the fetishistically over-described. And Ruby is set up to be the next queen. Again, it doesn’t make me want to break things
This book ends in a cliffhanger. Normally this is cue for me to run around yelling and cursing. Quite possibly for days. Weeks in some cases. But in this case it works. There’s always a difficulty with a first book in a new series – how do you fit in an introduction to the whole new world, the whole cast of characters and a major introductory storyline in one book? It’s hard to squish all of that in there.
And this book doesn’t. It introduces the world, it introduces the characters, it introduces the cosmology and the history. It introduces a lot of politics and side characters and pending issues and begins to introduce an overarching storyline – but doesn’t try to finish it. That’s not the point of this book – it’s an introduction and it’s a good one.