Buy Link: The Given & the Taken
Author: L.A. Witt
Rating: 4.5 stars
The Given & the Taken opens with Levi pacing in a snowy field, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his boyfriend Ian. They have been separated for a year after Levi’s wolf clan required a test to ensure that as a human (and a male) Ian could bond with Levi and be a proper mate. The men were required to spend a year apart, after which Ian must find Levi using only the strength of their mating bond. Although Levi is nervous, he is confident in his and Ian’s love and can feel the bond between them. When Ian finally shows up, however, Levi is shocked to find he has become one of the wolf’s worst enemies… a vampire.
Levi is devastated, both that Ian is a vampire, and to learn that Ian cheated on him with another man who ultimately turned him against his will. Even though he still loves him, Levi can’t bear to be around Ian and leaves him, thinking that will be the end of things between them. He knows the clan will never forgive Ian becoming a vampire, so he lies and tells them Ian didn’t show. But he is surprised to learn they insist on finding Ian and bringing them before the clan to defend his actions for breaking the ritual bond. Levi knows the clan will punish Ian when the find him and realize he has become a vampire, and knows that the only way to protect Ian is to find him himself.
But there is another man involved in all this, Ian’s maker Darius. Darius is in love with Ian and knows the wolves will be after him. He is determined to protect Ian and convinces him he needs to flee. Eventually Ian is on the run from both the wolves and Levi, never realizing that Levi is actually trying to protect him. As the wolves close in, Darius and Levi must work together to find Ian and get him to safety. Although as wolf and vampire they start off as bitter enemies, as they continue to track Ian they find common ground, and eventually a fierce attraction to one another. So now the three men must figure out how to stay safe, and how to work out a relationship between the three of them.
I found this a really interesting and somewhat unusual menage story. The relationships between the men really develop as a series of couples that ultimately become a larger threesome. Each man falls in love with each of the others fairly independently (Ian and Levi first, then Ian with Darius during the bonding year, and finally Darius and Levi while searching for Ian). It isn’t until well into the story that we actually see the guys as a threesome, even though they are all quite interconnected through out the book.
The story is told from a rotating point of view between all three men. This has the potential to be confusing but I found that it really worked well (with a few small exceptions). When we start the book, none of the men know exactly what is going on with the others — their feelings, the motivations for their actions, parts of their history, etc. By getting the POV of each man, the reader is able to slowly uncover what is really going on and to better understand their motivations. I found this especially important because each of them has some things they are not proud of and for which they feel remorse. Getting insight into their feelings helped me to understand them better and to accept their behavior.
A central point in the story is the significance of the clan’s rituals and the importance they place on the bonding ceremony. Levi and Ian had been together for many years prior to the bonding ritual, yet the clan insisted they could not be mates without it. In fact, a female mate had been chosen for Levi and only by going through the year-long separation would the clan allow him to be with Ian instead. Levi places a high importance on these religious rituals and convinces Ian to go along with the plan. Neither man realizes how horrible the experience will be however. The bond makes them deeply aware of one another all the time, making them both crazy with the strong pull to be together when they knew they must stay apart. Although Levi had the support of his fellow wolves, Ian was alone and desperately struggling to get through each day. He was drowning himself in alcohol and eventually gave in to the comfort Darius provided. So clearly there is cheating in this story, which I know for some folks is a deal breaker. But I think we get a good understanding of what caused Ian to stray, and Levi comes to understand his actions and forgive him. Levi also recognizes his role in placing the clan’s demands above his relationship, especially as they become increasingly hostile and vicious in their search for Ian. At times I thought that the topic was a bit belabored, but overall I felt like the bonding stuff really worked well to help explain the mistakes each man makes.
One of my favorite parts of the book was Levi’s intended mate (and best friend) Selena. I can’t remember ever liking a female supporting character so much in a m/m story. They are so often such flat characters, either the bitchy friend or the stereotypical gal pal. But Selena is totally awesome. She could hold her own against the most kick butt heroines of any het romance, no problem. Selena is totally supportive of Levi and his relationship with Ian even though it means she will never have a mate in this lifetime (if a woman’s intended mate finds someone else, she is up the creek). She goes along with Levi to find Ian and she is amazing. Strong, tough, brave, smart, and drives like a complete bad ass. Honestly, I so rarely like most female side characters I was just thrilled to find one who can really hold her own and makes such a big impact on the story.
So just a few quibbles. As I mentioned before, I felt like at times we got a bit too heavy into the politics of the clan and the bonding. It is a major plot point that required attention, but at times the details slowed things down for me. I also had a bit of a hard time relating to Ian out of the three men. Not because of the cheating, because I think that is well explained. But he spends so much time running on his own that I didn’t feel we get to know and understand him nearly as well as the other two men, or to get as good a sense of his dynamic with them since his relationship with each of them happens mostly before the book begins. And there was a time or two where I got a little lost in the POV, primarily when a scene continued from one chapter to the next but the viewpoint shifted. But these are all pretty small issues.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I found much of it quite thrilling as Darius, Levi, and Selena work to evade the wolves and race to find Ian in time. And I really liked how Levi and Selena come to really take a look at the beliefs they have held blindly, and evaluate what is really important to them. But most of all I really loved the guys and liked them together. They felt like three distinct characters and I loved the way the story twisted and turned to give each of them a chance to explore the relationship with each of the others, eventually bringing them all together. Although we do get an ending, the story clearly sets up for the next book in the series. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment!
P.S. I always love the Samhain “warnings” in their blurbs but I thought the one for this book was especially good:
Warning: Contains two vampires and a werewolf who really, really, really want to hate each other. Except when they want each other. And have violent, sweaty, angry sex with each other. But they still hate each other. Mostly.
The Given & the Taken will be released January 3rd from Samhain Publishing. L.A. Witt will be joining us that day as well to talk about the book, along with her other new release, Noble Metals.
We are especially lucky today because L.A is giving away copy of The Given & the Taken! Just leave a comment at the end of this post for a chance to win. The contest closes on January 3rd at 11:59 pm EST.
- By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
- Winners will be selected by random number.
- If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay and leave your email address if it is not in your profile.