by Maria Vale
Series: The Legend of All Wolves #1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild.
If she returns to her Pack, the stranger will die. But if she stays…
Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of her Pack’s social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn’t all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves…
This is an odd duck to categorize. It’s got all the hallmarks of a romance novel (HEA ending, traditional romance plot arc, etc) but it’s also quite dark and raw. I think if you go into this expecting a regular paranormal romance, you’ll be disappointed. But, oh man, this book surprised me in such a good way. This is the gritty paranormal romance I never knew I wanted!
In most of the paranormal/urban fantasies I’ve read, the shifters consider themselves both animal and human and generally try to fit in with human society, mostly out of necessity. In this book, the wolves, like Sil, consider themselves wolves first and are “in skin” (human form) only when necessary. Many live separate from human society, though those that do need to interact with humans on a daily basis (like their lawyers, accountants, etc) return home for the three days of the Iron Moon, when the wolves are forced to be in wolf form and are unable to change back to human. Those who are able to change back and forth at will, regardless of the moon phase, are called Shifters, and they chose to emphasize their humanity. Though they’re the closest to the usual shifter portrayal in romance, they’re actually the bad guys in this book.
The world building was superb. Their society is strikingly different from human society, and I thought Ms. Vale did a wonderful job of slowly explaining bits of it as it came up. Everything in their society revolves around the safety of the pack, so things that seem unspeakably horrible to a human (without being too spoiler-y, how Sil’s disability is dealt with) are accepted as a practicality. Ms. Vale does a great job of showing why the wolves are the way they are, and I really felt like I understood Sil’s love for her pack and the wild, despite the hardships she’s faced. I loved Sil. I loved her strength and her strong moral compass, and while I didn’t agree with all the choices she made, I understood why she made them. I started out the book identifying more with Ti and his confusion, but as the pages went by and more about the wolves’ way of life and reasoning became clear, it was Sil I sympathized with, especially her frustration with Ti’s inability to conform to the wolves’ way of life.
If you’ve read grimdark fantasy before, you’ll be familiar with a certain kind of humor that usually serves as a counterpoint to all the grittiness. That’s also present here, and some of it was masterfully done. I’m thinking in particular of the teacher who seems to be applying lipstick every time she appears.
As for cons, this is a first book, and I think it shows in some of the pacing and plotting. I never really felt like I understood why the Shifters felt they way they did about the wolves. Also, there are some threads that aren’t wrapped up, but as this is the first in a planned series, that’s expected.
Overall, while this wasn’t at all what I was expecting, I enjoyed this book very much and simply could not put it down, to the point where I stayed up way too late during a family vacation reading and didn’t regret it at all the next day! Recommended for fans of paranormal romance looking for something fresh and new, and for fans of urban fantasy who don’t mind a little romance in their grimdark.