I liked this more than I expected to. Which doesn’t mean it instantly added its series to my list of Needs to Be Tracked Down and Read Thoroughly, but still – it was quite readable. Considering it was a Netgalley offering I waffled over for a few minutes, hesitated, hemmed and hawed, and clicked “request” – and then instantly repented – it’s more than I expected.
The characters were a bit on the stereotypical side – Ally, the wolf shifter with extra gifts and giving no … er, damns, Cain the ditto with a painful past, a wounded present, and a generally badass attitude which I can’t believe most non-fictional non-werewolf women would find in any way attractive outside a romance or PNR (but he’s hot!)… The plot was not bad, with Ally leaving her former pack and being taken in temporarily by a new one (Cain’s, of course), having to prove herself and make them prove themselves, and then being blamed for/caught up in attacks on this new pack.
This was the first in its series, but apparently the new series is an offshoot of another, so the disadvantages I tried to avoid by choosing “The Mercury Pack #1” were still in evidence: a whole setting and cast of characters that were new to me but not to readers of this author. I do try to avoid books from later in an unfamiliar series, because it’s hard to judge how good an author’s exposition is when she’s depending on readers having some grounding in her work. Here, however, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect things to be explained pretty thoroughly … and the author did a decent job. I never felt completely lost. A bit confused here and there, but never lost.
One aspect to the world that confused me was this author’s version of a pack alpha. Apparently alphas among these shifters are very different from actual wolves, as far as I know. Example: “Derren’s old pack, where Nick had once been Alpha before forming the Mercury Pack”. Why would an Alpha form a new pack? And the Alpha of Ally’s old pack struck me as kind of an awful, unlikely example, hemming and hawing worse than I did over choosing this book, nervous and twitchy, easily dictated to by others. Not exactly authoritative.
The writing was … fine. There was an excessive amount of profanity – I’m not sure why it was necessary for not only the characters to swear constantly but for various and sundry pungent cuss-words to lace through the narration. “Feeling Derren’s anger so intensely, tasting it in her mouth, it was hard for Ally not to let it feed her own ire and make her lose her shit.” It’s kind of a great sentence, until it goes almost literally potty-mouth at the end. Really, is it a good idea to talk about tasting something in her mouth and immediately bring up excrement? On the whole … I can use more than my share of “colorful metaphor” (see STIV), but I found this level of expletive off-putting.
The main thing I found frustrating, though, was what might be seen as a lack of follow-through in using the characters’ enhanced senses and abilities. Ally tells someone she’s aware they loathe her, to which the other responds “That’s not true.” Yeah, thing is, Ally’s empathic, so if she gets loathing off someone, there’s loathing, undeniable. The person doing the loathing was aware of her empathy, so … why bother lying? One small thing I noted was that someone went into a conflict with “claws unsheathed” … which … wolves’ claws don’t retract. I suppose this meant that the person’s hands were partially shifted, but I don’t know.
And if I had been told one more time that to Ally Cain smelled like “oak bark, Brazilian coffee beans, and seriously hot sex”, I would have thrown the book against the wall – and then I would have had to try billing the author to replace my Kindle.
Even more aggravating was the basic “you people need to talk to each other” trope of romance novels. Cain and Ally spar and spat and fuss and bother, draw together and yank apart, and I just kept sighing. “Just SAY it. You’re mated. Just, someone, for heaven’s sake SAY IT.”
This take on the wolf mentality did not endear any of the characters to me. They did not make the book unreadable, but they certainly didn’t engage me enough to ever really want to spend any more time with them. I’ve already touched on the main two; additionally, there was evidence that most of them weren’t exactly the sharpest knives in their respective drawers. Example: Ally is in a one-on-one fight with someone who would rather like to kill her, and her supporters (yes, Ally’s allies – this is a strong argument for spelling the name “Allie” rather than “Ally”) call out encouragement and insults – and end up distracting her, to the point that she is injured. It would have been funny, allies becoming a hindrance (or Ally’s concentration being fragile enough to be broken by the heckling), if it hadn’t been a serious situation situation within the plot.
The book ended on a disquieting note, as a pair of prisoners taken by this pack are brought out of their holding cell, and “both … had nothing but tufts left of their hair”. Now, the two people in question did horrible things, committed terrible betrayals, and so on, and a couple of individuals in the pack took this extra step off their own bats, hacking the prisoners’ hair off (taking scalp as well in spots). It’s disturbing in and of itself – a violation of the Geneva Convention, if you will … but what bothered me most was the echo of Nazi treatment of people entering concentration camps. These prisoners, like those, were destined to die; there was no excuse for the extra degradation. No, I didn’t like these people much. I won’t be revisiting their world anytime soon.
The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review, thank you.