Synopsis: Before he left his mother and his family forever, Ox’s father told the awkward and not always articulate young man that his son was worthless. When young Joe moves in next door, Ox becomes fast friends with the neighboring family and begins to learn many of their wolf shifter secrets. While Joe and Ox grow to be young adults and become closer and closer, Ox is deeply embedded in the family when violent shifters strike a blow against the whole pack. As a future Alpha, Joe must shoulder the burden of leadership which might tear him away from the friend who is a potential love and mate. Years of struggle with paranormal shifter and magical threats split the pair apart at a rather deep level, and the possibility of being reunited brings forth feelings of long-boiling anger that might overwhelm their abiding friendship and potential love.
Review: T.J. Klune is one of my favorite authors, and he delivers a stunning paranormal, wolf-shifter “romance” that draws characters, supernatural elements, and relationship angst vividly on the page. While Klune normally writes extraordinarily humorous and snarky contemporary gay romance, he brings similar but more serious rattling, prattling, rapid-fire character thoughts and attitudes to this rather angst-filled and dramatic coming-of-age romance. The paranormal elements were compelling and the setting interesting. Even though many of the themes could apply to less magical environments, there is quite a novel development that brings a fresh and sometimes dramatic theme concerning a human protagonist not found in other paranormal stories.
Ox’s struggle with his sometimes dim view of himself is challenged dramatically by the events, forcing him to choose just what kind of person, partner, friend, lover, and family member he wants to be. The tapestry surrounding the protagonist’s struggle is deep and rich for fans of paranormal and extended family settings, intriguingly framing personal growth and coming of age themes with supernatural and relationship struggles.
My small critiques would include the fact that the couples’ relationship was a so angst-filled it was hard to buy the connection between them at times, and the protagonist’s anger a bit over-the-top from my perspective, but these elements also made for a rather atypical and fresh approach to potential shifter mates.
Recommended for fans of: Somewhat angst-driven (in a serious, adult responsibility manner) coming of age stories; slightly darker paranormal potential couplings; TJ Klune’s fast-paced and direct character thinking/speaking processes in a more serious/less humorous manner.