Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
Yulian Volkov is an entrepreneur and lone werewolf who hates the city. At a pack meeting, he learns the only member he’s attracted to is being expelled for crimes unspecified. Yulian strikes a deal with the pack leader to allow Rolly Witten to live on his farm and work in his Meadery. Although enjoying handsome Rolly’s company, Yulian must tread carefully, since Rolly doesn’t trust him and the pack doesn’t acknowledge homosexuality exists. Meanwhile, Yulian stealthily courts Rolly by teaching him the value of his wolf side.
Rolly, who’s known he was gay since he was a teen, has accepted a life of solitude-and a life of crime. He has no desire to relocate. Yet Yulian’s trust in his ability to do honest work builds his confidence. As life is settling well for them, Rolly learns a friend from his old pack had a crush on him, and he’s torn between returning his friend’s feelings or pursuing the budding relationship with Yulian. But that’s not their worst problem. Assassins are trying to take out both wolves, and they need to figure out who wants them dead or all the trust and happiness they’re building together won’t matter.
The Shape of Honey by Ki Brightly had some wonderful elements, things going for it. The author conceived of an interesting plot, came up with Yulian Volkov and his Meadery, a working Meadery, readers! And then created a troubled Rolly clearly in need of Yulian and all that the Meadery offered. What a great concept. What terrific characters and to back those two up, Brightly had a ancient Russian wolf shifter culture thrown in as well, especially the thuggish, hard scrabble nature of the shifters we meet inside it. So what happened? A multitude of voices, too many plots, that left this novel feeling muddied and the bright elements trampled. That’s what happened.
Rolly’s self centered mother’s got a new mate, which precipitates Rolly leaving home and finally being thrown out of the pack due to his friends. Rolly was hanging around with a bad group of kids/kits/werewolf juvenile delinquents, each of whom is given their own major voice here and part of the story, especially once Rolly separates from them. You can only imagine how frustrating that becomes when over and over again you are deeply connected to the drama and dynamics of the Rolly/Yulian relationship when suddenly the author switches over to the small pack of wolves/brats that got Rolly in trouble, specifically a ruthless young female shifter, Ava.
The worst part? Ava is a great character who really deserves her own story, but to throw her in here along with the others, and their competing plots, just continues to muddy this novel further until it becomes a total quagmire of competing wolf gangs, serpent shifters, destroyed loyalties and somehow the real relationship basics are almost totally forgotten.
The things I loved about this story were absolute treasures. The Meadery, the employees and the gruff Yulian who built it and loves not only the honey and mead he makes but has such a deep connection to the land? That’s the element that rings so true. Rolly? So torn and in need of love? Perfection when combined with the old, almost rock-like elemental nature of Yulian. Oh for the editor with a ruthless pen and good sense to have slashed everything else away. Or to have left it for another story.
Well, that didn’t happen and I have to review The Shape of Honey and the promise left at the door. That means I just can’t recommend this story, especially if you are asked to invest yourself in over 390 pages of your time. I hope Ki Brightly uses her wonderful imagination to create more tales for us, because of all of the wonderful elements that shine so brightly here.
Cover Art by Aaron Anderson is beautiful. I love the mix between man and wolf as well as the meadow below. Perfection.
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published October 19th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press