Rating: 4.75 stars
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Sergei Sidorenko is a powerful sorcerer and tiger shifter, a prince among his clan. But Sergei doesn’t want that life anymore. He feels that the days of the insular clans has come and gone and the only way for his people to survive is to become a part of the human world. Not everyone agrees, however, and his family wants him to rejoin them, especially given the latest threat.
For years the tiger clans were at war with one another, but in recent times the two clans on the East Coast had formed a truce, led by the head of the Kasimov family, Nadja, and Sergei’s Uncle Sasha, leader of the Sidorenkos. With Nadja’s recent death, however, things have fallen apart with no good leader to step into the role for the Kasimovs. Nadja’s great-grandson Anton is seeking to become king, but he is power hungry and up to much trouble. So far the families have been able to hold off his claim to power, but he is gaining supporters, and with no obvious alternative, Anton may soon take over, to disastrous results.
When Sergei’s uncle learns about another dominant tiger in the Kasimov family, he offers Sergei a deal. Find this young man and train him to take over, and Sergei is free to go about his life with no further intervention from the clan. It turns out that Nadja had another great-grandson, one she hid away from the world and who has no idea he is a sorcerer, a tiger shifter, or a king.
Julian has always know he felt different, alone somehow, but never knew why. When he meets Sergei and begins to hear his story, Jules can barely believe a word of it. Yet with Sergei’s help, Jules begins to come into his powers, learning to create wards and control the elements. He and Sergei also find a sexual and romantic connection with one another, one that neither man thought he would ever experience.
As Jules learns about his history and his power, trouble continues to brew with Anton. He is desperately trying to find the panacea, a key to immortality, and with a Sidorenko traitor helping him, Anton draws ever closer. Once he succeeds, he will have unimaginable power and he hopes to use it to reassert the dominance of the tiger shifters. He will be unstoppable and doesn’t care who gets hurt on the way to achieving his goals. With Jules struggling to fully come into his powers, Anton is ready to make his move, one that could not only lead to his total control, but to the deaths of both Sergei and Jules in the process.
After going crazy for Linda Gayle’s book A Shadow of Wings, I was so excited to pick up her latest story and see if she could repeat that magic. I am thrilled to say once again Gayle has created a fabulous and unique shifter story that is full of excitement and great romance.
What struck me about both these books is the really creative world building. I love shifter stories, but finding a unique approach can be difficult at times. This world Gayle has built in Tiger Boys is really fascinating and unique. The families trace their ancestry back to ancient alchemists who learned to manipulate the elements. These experiments led to both their sorcery powers, as well as their shifting abilities. I loved how these two skills integrated together to create these characters with a long and powerful history. We learn about the other clans, the fall of other types of shifters, and so many details of their powers and magic. It is all incredibly well done, and I especially loved the play on the Russian lineage. These guys have their sexy accents, a love of the cold, and a connection to the old world and their family history that I really enjoyed.
I also really liked the set up here, with the more experienced Sergei acting as mentor to Jules. It allows us to learn about the world so organically, right along with Jules. I loved watching his shock as he learns about the shifter world and his role in it, as well as seeing him slowly learn to open up his powers and abilities. Jules is definitely the more inexperienced, not just in the life of the tigers, but the world in general. Sergei is more experienced sexually, more polished and worldy, and it is a nice contrast to the sweet Jules. The chemistry between these guys is amazing, even as they are both trying to push it aside and focus on their efforts to train Jules. We can just feel things simmering between them and it is super sexy when it all finally reaches a boiling point and they get together.
Gayle creates a great bad guy in Anton. We slowly learn his motivations and goals as the story progresses, and while he is clearly way unhinged, what he wants makes just enough sense that his actions don’t seem totally unbelievable. There is clearly a rift in the clans about whether they should be moving forward by integrating into the human world, or whether they should remain insular and continue to interact with their own kind. Anton takes this way too far of course, going further and further into ruthless and violent behavior that risks both Sergei, Jules, and countless others. The final battle is exciting and the story is very suspenseful as things build.
My only quibble here is that the traitor working with Anton is so obvious right from the start. I actually assumed it must be a misdirection given how easy it was to figure out. I mean, [spoiler] when you refer to the inside source as “she” early on and there is essentially only one woman in the book [/spoiler] it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who it is. Honestly, I am not sure how much it really matters though. Anton is more than enough bad guy for the book and the reasons behind the betrayal are interesting in their own right, even without the mystery of the who it is. But I do think if you are going to set up a big reveal moment, you need to try harder not to make it so obvious.
So this is another fabulous story from Linda Gayle and she is become a go to author for me for some really wonderful and creative paranormals. The story has some really clever and unique world building with original shifter lore that makes it really fascinating. Sergei and Jules are great heroes. They are both very likable and are super sexy together. And the story has some great suspense and action. So I really loved Tiger Boys and highly recommend it.