Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
There is a free short story prequel to this book, but you don’t need to read it to enjoy this story. Alpha Varian of the Northern Pack is allied with the Shadow Clan against the allied packs of the South. I don’t really understand how this alliance works; it is something to do with the peace accord with other supernaturals (like vampires), but that is never discussed in any detail. Shadow Clan has so far stayed out of the agression. Zio is a beta in Varian’s combat squad, full of rage after the death of his best friend Emma, their wolf healer. When Shadow Clan sends their healer Devan to replace Emma, he must navigate culture shock, distrust, grief and the mating bond in order to save the lives of his new Pack.
The fish out of water element is a great way to explain things through Devan’s POV. Unfortunately, this is completely underutilized. In this world, paranormals coexist with humans, but shifters are treated differently in different parts of the world. The wolves are born with their own supernatural powers, like an affinity with different types of magic…and nothing is done with that except for a few small tremors and some shielding, which is literally a few sentences. There is one human character introduced briefly in the book even though humans try to stop the werewolf aggression and some wolves have human mates. Also, Devan is a different type of shifter…the author purposely doesn’t say what type until well into the book, but it’s on the cover so I didn’t understand the big secret. As an enemies to lovers story, it’s based on the loss of Emma, not that they are different animal spirits. The way humans or paranormals become shadow shifters is something else not well explained because the prequel made me have more questions than the book did–some people die once, while some people die twice…or is that only vampires who become Shadow Clan? I don’t know.
Zio is not in the correct frame of mind, as the reader can tell when his POV is given at key times. The only things that make sense to me about his extremes are either immaturity or PTSD, although that isn’t discussed, yet it’s treated more as a charcter issue that is fixed with the mating bond. This is a book about war, but the action scenes weren’t that gripping. Some shifters die and there are a few horrific injuries, but it is seen at a distance somehow, even with Devan being the one to heal them. None of the other side characters come alive; they are supposed to be close, sometimes having sex after battle, but I never got to feel anything for any of them because that is something the reader is told instead of shown. I wasn’t emotionally attached to whether they lived or died.
Even though Zio was bitten young, he was raised by humans and doesn’t seem to know wolf history or understand wolf biology. That’s convenient to move the story along, but he purposefully never rectified it and willful ignorance isn’t a very attractive character trait. Devan seems to be more arrogant, thinking he can ignore their growing bond, while Zio doesn’t recognize they are mates at all. Frankly, as a healer used to dealing with different kinds of supernatural, Devan should know better. About 60% of the way in, Devan says he likes Zio but I’m not sure why when they have barely spoken to each other and their interactions are contentious or a short sexual activity. All of the sudden, just when they start having whole conversations, there is a manufactured crisis to keep them apart, which would have worked better if the attention to the political details had been in the world-building. Again, while this is convenient for a slow burn romance, it doesn’t really work with the story except as an excuse to wallow in an agonizingly precarious position. Then all of the sudden Devan is dying for no reason. What? At the end, the humans are involved and have some drug to use on shifters, which has to have been stuck in there at the last minute to create conflict for the next book. I really wanted to like this more than I did, but I didn’t connect to this story.
The cover art was done by Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design. I’m not sure it is representative of the mood of this story.
Sales Links: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Fox Love Press
Edition Language English
Series Shadow Bound #1