Volyk is an oboroten’, a wolf who has human sentience and possibly the ability in his blood to shift into a man. But he lives his life as a wolf, and only has his parents for company. When Volyk’s father is killed by humans, they run and are found by a pack of wolves. When the alpha says Volyk must fight the beta, Volyk instead follows his insticts and tries to mount the beta. Volyk is shunned, and he must flee. His mother stays behind to remain protected as she is pregnant. Volyk then wanders, making a life as a wolf.
Ilya is the youngest son of a harsh and hard man. When he was five, he saw his father murder a wolf, and it saddened him beyond belief. As he grows older, he knows he needs to keep his sexuality a secret, and has made a pact to be true to himself while doing so. But his brothers find out and try to kill him. Ilya is saved by a Volyk.
In order to save Ilya’s life, Volyk makes him oboroten’. But even though they have a deep connection, they don’t fully bond and become mates. Ilya has trouble embracing his wolf side, and Volyk fears what that might mean for them. But when Volyk’s past comes back to haunt them, they might not survive, unless Ilya can embrace what he’s become.
Okay. So, truth is, I really, really wanted to like this book. The premise was interesting, and I liked that the shifter here was a wolf who could become a man. There was a lyricalness to the prose that gave it a fairytale feel and at times I was swept away to a different place. But I’ll admit that I had some trouble with it.
So I think, for me, the removed aspect of it was the biggest hinderance. Most of this story takes place with the characters as wolves. While Ilya’s initial POV showed us the present, almost everything for Volyk’s POV was as a wolf, and he only was able to shift later in life. I had trouble with Volyk knowing common phrases and words, though he did have human sentience and he and his parent thought like humans. But I couldn’t reconcile how human he was considering that he spent most of his living as wolf. This was a rather large stumbling block for me.
I felt for Ilya as I first met him and saw him growing up. Growing up gay in Russia meant that he had to hide, and his softer side made him vulnerable. But then the story took a turn I just couldn’t believe of him. Rescued by Volyk and hiding in the cave, he instantly accepts and believes everything that Volyk tells him. Without question. And then he is instantly in love with Volyk as well. It was too much for me.
Honestly, it was a nicely done story on the whole, weaving in true magical elements. But it was just too far outside the realm of believability for me. I like fantasy, but I like it to be explained, and enough just wasn’t adding up for me. It’s a short read, and that worked in its favor as the pacing was good. If you like a different take on the shifter story, and a fairy tale feel, then I can recommend this to you. Everyone else might want to give this one a pass.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.