by Ali Williams
Series: The Freed Hunt #1
Publication Date: May 14, 2022
Source: the author
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Very little fazes blacksmith Kenna, so accidentally awakening a Goddess barely gives her pause, until she discovers what gifts Belisama has bestowed in her. She finds herself in the midst of a power struggle between two Gods that she didn’t even know existed, but it’s the fact that this isn’t a challenge she can face alone that will almost get her killed.
Morcant has been trapped as part of the Wild Hunt for centuries: he’s seen his brother die as part of the curse; friends give up; and he’ll do just about anything to keep the remaining members safe. So when he’s promised their freedom, he agrees to do what the god Nodens asks, and stop the Godstouched from unwittingly creating more mayhem.
But the Godstouched is Kenna, the first woman to touch his heart in millennia, which leaves him with a horrendous choice: her happiness, or freedom for those he thinks of as family.
I’d read some of the author’s contemporary romances before so when I found out she had a shifter romance coming out? Heck yes! And it’s absolutely delightful, with a strong heroine and the exact opposite of an alphahole hero.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Kenna is very surprised when the statue she’s working on suddenly turns into Belisama, a goddess she’s never heard of, and proclaims that she’s her priestess. But the blacksmith figures she can just shrug it off and finish off the commission… at least until the side effects of being Godstouched by the goddess of forges and fire show up. Morcant’s having an equally surprising day. Cursed to ride for centuries as part of the Wild Hunt, the god who trapped him has freed him and the rest of the Hunt. The catch? To stay free, they’ll have to hunt down the Godstouched and stop them from using their power. But the minute Morcant sees Kenna, he realizes he can’t harm her. But with the fate of himself and his friends hanging in the balance, what choice does he have?
“There was magic in the metal, magic that needed to be let out, and she was the only one that could release it.”
Kenna’s a delightful character. After the death of her father, she took over as blacksmith for her small village in England and it’s obvious how much she loves her work. She’s strong physically and mentally, and she has no problem talking back to a living statue/goddess. Dealing with a goddess-sent compulsion to finish the statue while trying to figure out how not to set her friends on fire is a bit much for even her, though. Luckily, Morcant’s willing to be there and support her, though Kenna’s not sure she wants the help. Morcant’s ok with following her lead though, because while he’s strong and capable on his own, he also very much appreciates how strong and in control Kenna is. Kenna in return admires his muscles, of course, but most of all that he respects her boundaries and her decisions, that he doesn’t attempt to run her life. Of course, hanging over it all is the god’s threat to return Morcant and his friends to the Hunt if he doesn’t stop Kenna.
This is all set in the South Downs, an area the author obviously loves and that transfers to the characters and her descriptions of the countryside. Besides the worldbuilding, I also liked the side characters. While Morcant’s found family was interesting, my favorite characters were Kenna’s friends. Rina’s a librarian who attempts to fix everything with either books or food, and Arlee’s the highly excitable primary teacher (and nonbinary). I very much hope the next books in the series involve them! I also really liked that this drew from the pre-Roman English pantheon rather then usual Greek one.
“Telling her best friends about accidentally summoning a goddess, being named her priestess, and being blessed with the ability to breathe fire wasn’t something that Kenna would like to repeat[.]”
Overall, it’s short, sweet and very delightful and I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series!