Rating: 2 stars out of 5
When Justin arrives at the mustang roundup run by the Bureau of Land Management, he’s dismayed to see that none of the mares or geldings meet the requirements his boss had given him for his next purchase. But he’s fascinated by a dark gray stallion, one with unusual forest-green eyes. The first time Brother Mustang sees Justin, he’s rightfully fearful and wants to charge the man, but Nohatu, the human who lives side-by-side in Brother Mustang’s mind is able to keep the stallion calm. Unfortunately for them, Justin makes the purchase, and Nohatu and Brother Mustang find themselves taken far away from the land they’ve known.
Caitlin Ricci took an interesting twist on shifters with this story. Each half lives within the current form, but they are not one and do not always agree. In addition, the human prefers being in the shifted form, even though he’s often in a subjugated position. We learn rather quickly that Nohatu prefers sex with men because as soon as he’s found in the stallion’s pen, he’s shipped off to the bus station, and on the way, he manages to seduce Justin into stopping for a quick blowjob. It turns out that sex is the means by which they pass on the spark to shift when they meet someone who appears to be of “their kind.” And they believe Justin is. The way the background is filled in is via storytelling by Nohatu of the tale of his own turning. It’s a clever way to impart a lot of information in a brief way.
Overall, the story was very short, but it was packed with a lot of information. On the negative side, there was no time for a romantic buildup, and in fact, it felt like there wasn’t even a romantic element promised for the future. The story ends with a HFN and actually felt as if might have been an introduction to some future series or novel.
There also wasn’t enough time to fully develop any of the characters, and although I felt a little sympathetic to Justin, I lost that when he made his decision at the end. And because Nohatu and Brother Mustang were at odds with each other throughout most of the story, and neither had a likeable personality, I couldn’t manage any empathy toward their joint or individual well-being.
Since it is so short and does display a clever and interesting treatment of shifters, I’d recommend the story to those who enjoy paranormal shifter stories with a different twist.
Cover art by Natasha Snow features a leafy background on which is the head of a white horse, looking down, with some of his mane flopped forward. If I look closely, I can see a hawk-like bird instead of the horse—one ear a beak, one a body, and the horse’s mane the full wingspan of a hawk in flight. It may be an optical illusion, but due to the content of the story, I suspect the artist did this purposely, and if so, she did a remarkable job.
Published January 13th 2016 by Less Than Three Press
URL settingColorado (United States)