Review: Ravensong – T.J. Klune

Review: Ravensong – T.J. KluneRavensong
by T.J. Klune
Series: Green Creek #2
Also in this series: Wolfsong
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 512
Source: NetGalley

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

The beloved fantasy romance sensation by New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune, about love, loyalty, betrayal, and joy. The Bennett family has a They're not just a family, they're a pack . Ravensong is Gordo Livingstone's story.

Gordo Livingstone never forgot the lessons carved into his skin. Hardened by the betrayal of a pack who left him behind, he sought solace in the garage in his tiny mountain town, vowing never again to involve himself in the affairs of wolves. It should have been enough. And it was, until the wolves came back, and with them, Mark Bennett. In the end, they faced the beast together as a pack… and won.

Now, a year later, Gordo has found himself once again the witch of the Bennett pack. Green Creek has settled after the death of Richard Collins, and Gordo constantly struggles to ignore Mark and the song that howls between them. But time is running out. Something is coming. And this time, it’s crawling from within. Some bonds, no matter how strong, were made to be broken.

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I will admit to some definite disappointment that the second book in this series didn’t continue following Ox and Joe. But getting the second chance romance between Gordo and Mark? I’ll take it! Since this is the second book in a series, there will be spoilers for the first book in this review.

The first section of the book alternates between scenes from Gordo and the brothers’ hunt after Richard Collins and Gordo’s childhood. Let’s just say that it makes his initial distrust and outright panic over keeping Ox away from the Bennet’s more understandable. But catching up to the present and the aftermath of Richard Collins isn’t a cakewalk, either. Something’s going on with the Omegas and the temporary Alpha of all isn’t being very forthcoming. But it’s when things get personal for Gordo that he truly has to chose between his anger and the man he lost.

“You could have become the villain, Gordo. And it would have been within your rights. Instead you just chose to be an asshole.”
“Are you … complimenting me? Because if you are, you’re doing a really bad job at it.”

Gordo was an interesting character for me in the first book. Yeah, he’s a jerk (and worse) in so many ways but he’s also there for Ox when he needs him. Once I clocked that he’s a porcupine with a heart of gold, well, of course I liked him. He’s grumpy and snappish – his friends at the garage say he has “murder eyebrows” – but his pack knows that he’s full of hot air. He only truly lashes out at Mark, his mate, who he blames for…. well, a lot of things. Gordo’s anger is well-deserved and very understandable, but it did wear thing after a while.

The part of the book that hit hardest for me was the theme around parents and children, about living up to – or defying – their expectations. It was also a thread through the first book, between Ox’s bio father who told him he was nothing and the slow relationship he builds – and then loses – with Thomas. But where Ox has put his ghosts to rest, Gordo has a lot more wreckage to deal with.

Gordo’s bio dad was established pretty definitively as one of the main villains in the first book. So it may be hard to believe that he comes off even worse in this book. Gordo is who he is – the Bennett pack witch – because of his father’s actions, and whether that’s a positive or negative thing is something that changes throughout the book. And then there’s Thomas who was the bio dad or chosen dad of so many characters. While Gordo’s trained by his father and Thomas’s father, he knows that he’ll be Thomas’s witch. So his betrayal – as he sees it – takes an already hurting child and decimates him. The villain also has to deal with living in the specter of their parent’s shadow – and is a counterexample of the path that Gordo chose not to take.

“You can run from me, Gordo. But I will always find you. I let you go once. I’m not going to make that mistake again.”

And then, of course, there’s the romance. Mark and Gordo grew up together long before Gordo realized that Mark knew he was his mate. So it’s no surprise that Gordo feels just as betrayed by Mark as he does by Thomas. But despite everything everything, Gordo still loves him – even while he wishes he hates him. He does his best to lash out and push Mark away and convince himself it’s not true. Given wolves’ noses and the bond that still exists between them, Mark knows he’s lying but only pushes so far. I was disappointed by the circumstance that led to Gordo finally accepting his feelings – it’s a trope I particularly dislike – but I liked seeing them attempt to rebuild a relationship while still acknowledging both of their pain. The only problem? The main focus of the book was on the events happening in the pack and around Green Creek, not their relationship. I honestly hesitate to even label this romance with how little time they spend together, though what’s there is certainly worth it.

While I enjoyed Gordo’s prickly point of view, there’s no arguing that there’s some intangible quality that’s missing compared to Ox’s POV. He has a pretty unique viewpoint given his knowledge about the wolves while not being one himself so you’d think that it would work. Part of it I think is that despite all the things that happen in the book, Wolfsong can feel like a warm hug. We meet Ox and Joe as children and there’s lots of happy peppermint smells and family dinners and just Ox’s generally positive viewpoint. There’s none of that with the way this book starts and even after that Gordo is generally, well, bitter. It’s an enthralling read but not necessarily a comforting one. In addition, the depictions of the non-White characters felt a bit stereotypical to me, Rico especially. Random Spanish and some stale Latinx stereotypes do not make a character. Not my background, though, so I’ll leave that up to someone else to pick apart.

Overall, while I didn’t like this anywhere near as much as the first one, I’m definitely intrigued enough to keep going with the series.

Content notes: View Spoiler »

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