Rating: 5 stars out of 5
After the events in Afghanistan, Captain Tim Madison, Lt. Lucas Young, Dominant and True Alpha Sergeant Noah Hammond find themselves back in the States as part of a new military unit designed to better utilize and integrate the wolf shifters into the military to the benefit of both species. Its a huge job and they have plenty of preconceived notions, misinformation and outdated combat structures to get rid of. All receive promotions with Tim Madison promoted to major. He is also made the head of the new unit which is composed of both human and shifter soldiers. The first order of business? To the bottom of the huge amount of shifter casualties in combat.
Jeremy Wagner is a civilian wolf shifter. He’s smart, young and just beginning his career as an architect intern. Jeremy is also a Lone Wolf, having been Cast Out by the True Alpha of the North Coast pack. To that True Alpha, Jeremy represents a threat to his leadership asJeremy is just beginning his Transition to True Alpha. Now Jeremy is alone, hormonal and trying to deal with all the physical and emotional changes of his transition and it’s not going well.
A confrontation in a parking lots brings Tim Madison together with Jeremy Wagner with explosive results. Despite Tim’s concerns about the swiftness of their feelings and age difference, Tim and Jeremy soon form an intimate bond. But outside elements gather to pull them apart. Tim’s dysfunctional brother has reappeared in his life, casualties are mounting for the werewolves in combat and Jeremy must still deal with his transition to True Alpha. Will their bond and the strength of the wolf be strong enough to withstand the obstacles in their path?
Each new book from Kendall McKenna just reinforces my enthusiasm and love for The Tameness of the Wolf universe and the wolf shifters (and humans) she has created for it. Strength of the Wolf follows shortly after the events of Strength of the Pack and the kidnapping of Lt. Lucas Young. That military action highlighted the errors in which the wolfshifters were being used and the need for more investigation and regulating where the shifters and the military were concerned. After an intense Prologue, McKenna switches focus away from combat and brings us into an exploration of werewolf natural history, one of the aspects I wished had been enlarged in Strength of the Pack.. How did they operate? What was the hierarchy? In Strength of the Wolf, McKenna starts to answer some of those questions. I have to admit that I love how McKenna intertwines shapeshifter history with that of human history and lore. It works beautifully and also manages to introduce an element of humor to the proceedings.
Kendall McKenna’s characters are as strong, deep, and intense, all of which is necessary considering their occupations and difference in physiology. I love her soldiers, her Marines both human and werewolf. They are all resoundingly authentic and compelling. Now we get to see the civilian side of the wolf. Jeremy is a architectural intern. He is young, brash, smart, and alone. His is a more subtle characterization if you can say that about a wolf shifter, especially one becoming a True Alpha. His is a character in transition in more ways than one. Jeremy is twenty five. He is, as an intern, learning about himself as a architect as well as his new status as True Alpha. Jeremy has always been a mid level pack member and is not prepared when he starts to change mentally, emotionally, and physically. He is in all respects, a late bloomer and that’s a problem. I really love this character. He is powerful and he is also very vulnerable, he is insecure and having problems handling his transition without help. Then into his life strides Tim Madison, Lucas Young and Noah Hammond. Talk about a life changing moment. That scene in the parking lot is a great example of why everything about this series and book works. It’s intense, its perspective is both intimate and broad in scope, it’s humorous and potentially terrifying. It’s amazing. And the more we learn about Jeremy’s journey to True Alpha, the more we learn about werewolf society, pack rules and regulations.
The character of Tim Madison is, naturally, given more depth and scope than his role in Strength of the Pack. I liked Tim in that novel but came to love him here. Older, responsible, and still he yearns for the type of bond he sees in Lucas and Noah, a permanence and deep love that includes respect and understanding. Tim’s past and his military career have taught him caution, to be wary of unplanned, quick moves. So it is absolutely understandable that when faced with Jeremy’s (and his own) desires, that Tim would want to slow things down. So very human, but that doesn’t always work with your mate is a shapeshifter. Again, McKenna gives each man his strong persona and then shows us exactly how and why they work so well in combination. It’s realistic and incredibly sexy! I mean incendiary sexy! Those scenes between Tim and Jeremy are the hottest things since…well, since Noah and Lucas!
Of course, Dominant Lucas Young and his mate, Noah Hammond, the True Alpha of the U.S. Armed Forces Pack are back in force. This couple always manages to bring an startling sexual and emotional component to each scene they are in. They remain as charismatic and white hot as you would expect. But even with all those qualities, their presence doesn’t take away anything from the story of Tim and Jeremy. They enhance it, not dilute it. McKenna balances her couples and the needs of the narrative beautifully so neither couple is diminished by the other. It may be Tim and Jeremy’s story but the author has a wider plan that she is moving towards and many other elements in play. And this will include some of the new characters she introduces in Strength of the Wolf. At least I am hoping to see certain Marines show up again as well as Tim’s brother.
A review of any of Kendall McKenna’s novels would be incomplete without mentioning the superb military elements so much a part of her narratives. Because of Kendall McKenna, I now know what a sit-rep is, also a “oscar mike”, CASEVAC, and LPC’s, that’s leather personnel carriers, also known as boots for those of you as ignorant as I was of military speak! Because of Kendall McKenna and her vivid realistic descriptions, I can almost feel the heat of the desert baking into their skin, and the dessert sand that invades every crevasse of clothes and body no matter the preventative measures taken to keep it out. The drudgery, the danger, the boredom and the unmitigated horror of a ambush, its all here, done with a gritty realism that will make you wince,cringe and cry out for those involved. Reading through a Kendall McKenna story is both a pleasure and a revelation. I feel grounded in its authenticity (especially where the military and combat is concerned) but revel in the new facts and aspects of situation and characters that I had not thought of. What a joy.
Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Wolf and The Tameness of the Wolf series are on Scattered Thoughts Best Lists of 2013. Consider both books highly recommended. So grab up your LPCs and run to get your copy of Strength of the Wolf. If you are new to the series, go directly back to the beginning and Strength of the Pack first. If you loved that book, trust me you will be running back to reread it after finishing Strength of the Wolf. This is a series you will never get enough of, trust me on this one.
Cover art by Jared Rackler is amazing. I love it.
Books in The Tameness of the Wolf series in the order they were written and should be read:
Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2)