Review: Ashland (WereWolf Fight League #2) by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Ashland WWF 2For years Dan Stoltz has dreamed of owning his own werewolf fighter.  He apprenticed with the well-known trainer and friend, Murphy, and now he is ready to make his first purchase.  At the auctions, Murphy points out a slave that he thinks would make a good fighter, one being sold because his owner is broke and can’t pay his back taxes.  Dan is wavering,as he has decided upon an Asian were. Then the slave raises his head and looks into Dan’s eyes.  With that one gaze, Dan is lost and determined to have Ashland at any cost.

Ashland has known nothing but abuse at the hands of his former owner, Durio.  Starved, sexually abused, kept weak for his owner’s amusement, now Ashland is for sale again and fears the new master who buys him. He sees Dan Stolz watching him on the auction block. When Dan wins the bidding war and buys him, Ashland finds that his life has changed for the better. With good food, rest, and training, Ashland thrives, becoming a skilled sparing partner.  And something more happens. Dan and Ashland are attracted to each other, lust and something more threatening the bonds being built between master and slave.

Ashland is the second installment in the WereWolf Fight League series and the main characters make this a very different book from Tor, the first in the series.  In the first book, the relationships are between slaves, the Owner/Master Marrack is a secondary character.  In Ashland, the relationship starts with the characters occupying two different strata in society.   Dan Stolz, Murphy and Ashland’s former owner Durio are free man, Masters in every sense of the word.  Lorenz’ universe seems to mirror ours here, at least as far as economics, as each man above has a slightly different financial reality.  Murphy is doing well as a seasoned successful trainer.  Dan is the apprentice who is ready to branch out on his own, lower middle case on the rise.  And then there is Durio, bankrupt and unable to pay his taxes, someone on the way down and hopefully out.

Next are the slaves, human and were.  Some fighters are breeders and are intact.  Others like Ashland have been “snipped”, they can function but not reproduce, an almost gelding as it were.  There are sex slaves of both genders, and instead of prison, those free men who have committed crimes against the government or society pay by becoming slaves themselves, condemned to perform the worst tasks society can give them (getting rid of the dead and cleaning up the streets).  Owners have total control, including rape, over their slaves, although change is coming via were and slave right activists.

A Master/slave relationship is by  definition an unequal relationship as the Master has total power over the slave.  So I was expecting to see something of that  reflected back in the story. And outside the brief mention of Durio’s actions towards Ashland, I didn’t see that. In fact I found this owner/slave dynamic  missing in this slave/owner relationship story.  Almost from the first, Dan is treating Ashland less like a slave and more like a person he wants to get to know.  Yes, Dan is a new owner, one of the people who believe in humane treatment of slaves, but still I found his attitude and behavior towards Ashland anything but masterful.

I have to admit I didn’t mind that this aspect was missing from the story (I actually preferred it this way) but just found it a bit odd. Their love for each others develops at the same pace as Ashland’s training, with the traumatized Ashland wanting Dan’s affections to Dan needing Ashland yet not wanting to abuse Ashland’s trust.  Apparently men don’t communicate very well in alternate worlds either.

New characters are introduced, another Master/slave/slave grouping, that I expect to appear in the third book.  I liked this trio.  They have real possibilities as men who respect each other within the limitations of their society.  I think my problem here is that the inequality within Dan and Ashland’s relationship continues even when Dan professes his love for Ashland.  Dan calls him “baby” which is accurate given his inability to read or navigate in Dan’s world.  Ashland remains emotionally unprepared for the status Dan is laying on him.  At least that is the way it seems to me.

There is a measure of suspense with regard to Ashland’s former owner trying to reclaim his slave.  The resolution of this plot thread is so pat that it felt perfunctory.  Wrapped up all too quickly, with many issues left unanswered, I found myself wishing that Lorenz had added at least a chapter or two of the “behind the scenes” mechanisms that made the ending possible.  I found myself liking this story marginally less than Tor perhaps because of the difference in relationship as well as the ending.  I think that the people who liked Tor will find themselves divided over this story.  And perhaps those that didn’t care for Tor will love the dynamics in play here. Either way Lynn Lorenz’s wonderful, heartfelt characters make this a werewolf story to add to your collection.

Stories in the WereWolf Fight League series include:

Tor (WereWolf Fight League #1)
Ashland (WereWolf Fight League #2), in many ways a prequel to Tor

No Publishers warnings accompany this story, unlike Tor, the first in the series.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 151 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Loose Id (first published November 4th 2013)
ISBN13 9781623005528
edition language English

Review: Tor (WereWolf Fight League #1) by Lynn Lorenz

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Tor WWF coverSlave and WWF fighter, Tor is a werewolf whose life has just shattered in the arena.  His mate and love, Jin, has just killed by his opponent in the arena, a circumstance that shouldn’t have happened and is forbidden by Coliseum laws.  Injured by the berserker wolf who killed Jin, Tor wants to die but his Master Marrack has other plans.

Marrack is broke and needs Tor to fight again so he buys a young sex slave to replace Jin.  Sky is a virgin and beautiful.  He is also a sex slave.  When Marrack purchases him, he promises Sky his freedom if he can get Tor to fight again in the arena (all without Tor’s knowledge of course).  The last thing Tor wants is another mate who might be lost to him through fighting.  Who will win out with all that’s at stake?  Will Tor find love with Sky only to lose him to freedom or worse?

I have to admit I approached this story with some trepidation.  I am a fan of Lynn Lorenz. Her Rougaroux Bayou werewolves and her New Orleans stories are always found on my Must Read lists of recommendations.  I normally shy away from fiction with a slave element, especially those with scenes of rape. But a series with werewolves fighting in a sort of gladiator werewolf fight league caught my interest and I just had to know how this author handled such a storyline.

Tor, the first in the series, left me with mixed opinions.  I thought the idea of using the mixed martial arts fighting leagues in a werewolf story intriguing, especially if the setting included a Coliseum.  Ancient Rome has always been a fount of inspiration for authors and using it as a basis for her world building works really well here.  Other creative additions to her WWF series is the PETA modeled Werewolf Rights group  fighting to outlaw slavery and the WWF.   This is such an imaginative use of an animal rights organization when applied to werewolves that I am surprised that other authors have not thought of this (and if someone has please let me know).   I only wish that this element had a larger part to play in this story.  When the issues of abuse at the hands of their Masters, or being raised in substandard kennels is mentioned, it would have added another interesting layer to see this institutionalized combat slavery from outside the societal thinking on the subject.  I can only hope that this aspect might be enlarged in the stories to come later in the series.

Lynn Lorenz has added several new twists to the ever enlarging werewolf lore.  In this series, the werewolves do not mate for life.  They are offered sex slaves (not weres) as mates which then can be taken away if the fighters lose in the arena, the winner takes the other wolf’s mate to do with as they please.  The prettier the mate, the more intense the fight, although never to the death as that would mean a loss of income property and revenue to their masters.   Rarely have I read a wolf shifter story that changes out mates as often as occurs here although Lorenz supplies a good foundation for that. Bonds can be formed between Master and slave, although not considered a mate bond (illegal apparently).   I did wish for a little more background information on the society and universe the humans and weres inhabit, but again that might be supplied as the series builds.

The characters of Tor and Sky are given enough layers to make them interesting and their relationship viable.  But the biggest obstacle to that connection is one that Lorenz made herself.  The beginning of the story starts in the arena, in the middle of a fight between Tor and the berserk werewolf Cosack with Jin caught in the middle.  It’s brutal and it contains the scene that the publisher issued the warning about.  And even with all that, the character of  Jin is a charismatic and riveting one.  He is also referred to throughout the story and innocent Sky gets lost in the comparison.  I liked Sky and thought the background Lorenz provided made him someone the reader could connect to but I never quite bought the Tor/Sky love and the story suffered because of that lack of connection to the romance.

The initial fight scenes that carry the publisher’s warning can be scanned if this aspect is offensive without harming the rest of the story.  In fact, without that connection to Jin, it might work better for some readers.  The rest of the story can be read free of any sort of anxiety over the characters and their love affair.  The two other interesting characters in this story, Dan Stoltz and Ashland, are given the next installment in the series.  I liked these two and can’t wait to read their story.

Would I recommend Tor? Yes with some hesitation.  If you can’t resist a wolf shifter story like me, grab this up.  It has some great new twists to add to werewolf fiction lore.  If you love Lynn Lorenz like I do, grab it up as well.  I have never been able to pass her books by.  This is just the first in the series and it has so many terrific aspects that can be enlarged with each new story.  I will let the rest of you decide on the romance central to Tor as to whether you connected to the characters or not.  And now on to Ashland (WereWolf Fight League #2).

Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: BDSM them and elements, exhibitionism, master/slave, violence (including rape).

Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing

WereWolf Fight League Series:

Tor (WereWolf Fight League #1)
Ashland (WereWolf Fight League #2)

Cover by artist Mina Carter is a wow.  I love that torso with the WWF brand on the chest.  Sexy, hot and relevant to the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 134 pages
Published April 2nd 2012 by Loose Id
ISBN13 9781611188110
edition language English
series WereWolf Fight League