Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 18 hours, 40 minutes
Ox’s father made it clear that he didn’t think Ox was worth much, and when Ox was 12, the man left home, never to return. Ox has always been a bit slower than other people, and so he believed his father’s words. With just Ox and his mother at home, they have trouble making ends meet, so Ox takes a job working at Gordo’s garage. Ox loves his job, adores his mother, and has a surrogate father/brother in Gordo, so while he doesn’t think much of himself, he is content.
Nothing has prepared Ox for the Bennetts, the family that moves into the abandoned house at the end of the lane. Or for their youngest son, Joe. When Ox is 16, the Bennetts return to town and the family opens their hearts to both Ox and his mother. Slowly Ox learns their secrets: the family are werewolves, father Thomas is the alpha, and young Joe is the future alpha. Ox also learns what haunts them: Joe was kidnapped, tortured and abused by someone wanting to get to Thomas, and the first time he spoke in over a year was the day he met Ox. Somehow, inexplicably, the family wants Ox to be a part of their lives, to share in this special bond they have with one another, this connection as pack. Despite the fact that Joe is years younger, the two become the best of friends. And then one day, Ox sees Joe differently. This boy has become a man, and it is clear there is more between them than just their bond of friendship.
But the Bennett’s past is not staying behind them. Joe’s kidnapper, Richard Collins, is not through with the Bennetts, and he is not through with Joe. The fragile life Ox has built, the happiness he has found, is shattered. Even worse, the events leave Joe devastated and bent on revenge. And then Joe leaves. For three long years he is gone, leaving Ox and the others left behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and to try to find a way to go on. When Joe finally returns, Ox’s world has changed yet again. And now he has to figure out if there is still a way for him and Joe to be together. And even if the men can find their way back to each other, those that threaten them have not given up, and all their lives continue to be in danger. But the connection between Joe and Ox is strong and their bond is one that started years before. If they can find strength in each other, they may just make it through.
Oh, you guys. Seriously, you guys. I am probably telling most of you what you already know, as Wolfsong was released as an ebook earlier this year to much acclaim. But if you have not read it, OMG you guys, go pick it up right now. Because this was an amazing story that grabbed me emotionally from the very start and didn’t let go until the end. I loved every minute and found myself searching for opportunities to listen to the audiobook so that I could continue the story.
First off, let me say if you are not familiar with the this story, but are a fan of T.J. Klune’s work, this one is quite different in tone from many of his books. This isn’t a comedic story, but instead one that is dark and lush and full of intensity and warmth. There are not many authors who can produce books that are hysterically funny along side ones that are dramatic and intense quite this well; in fact, I can only think of a small few. So I am always impressed to see an author with so much range, and Klune does an amazing job here of making this a story that just wraps you up with its warmth, at the same time letting us see the pain and sadness these characters often feel. I was just captivated and couldn’t get this book out of my head.
One of the things I loved here is Klune’s take on the shifter world. This is a long book and there is so much depth and exploration in the world building. The rituals, the customs, the bonds that form between members, the way they form packs, and the mysticism of it all are so well explored. It infuses everything that happens and impacts every character we meet. I loved the beauty of the connections between everyone, the way that we see the bonds of pack affecting everyone, even the humans. There is just such wonderful intensity here to the shifter world and I loved seeing how all the pieces play out.
The romance here is an interesting one, as Joe and Ox start out as friends, ones with a fairly sizable age difference. Yet there is a connection between them that is immediate and intense, even though it begins as nothing other than friendship. I loved the scenes where Ox suddenly sees Joe differently. It is one of the few humorous sections of the book, and it is a perfect break from the intensity of the story. I couldn’t help but laugh at poor Ox all befuddled, at listening to him get teased by the Bennett clan as they quickly recognize his new attraction for Joe. It could have been strange, to have this friendship between 16-year-old Ox and 11-year-old Joe ultimately grow into love, yet Klune manages to make the transition from friends to lovers work perfectly, as the intensity between them just grows so naturally into more. The bond between the men is clear, even as kids, and I loved the way it grows during the book.
Another interesting aspect of the story is the way the blurb is structured. We learn from reading that the men meet when Ox is 16, that something tragic happens when he is 23, and that Joe is then gone for three years. So we know from the start that these guys will not only be apart for a while, but that tragedy will lead to their separation. So as we go along with the story, there is always this danger and sense of foreboding that lurks. When Joe leaves, it is early enough on that I couldn’t help but wonder how the story would develop, and whether there would be enough to not only carry the book in Joe’s absence, but to also then fill the story upon his return. I shouldn’t have worried, as Klune surprised me with the direction he takes things, and I found it incredibly rewarding. The way things unfold is nothing I could have imagined, yet it all works so perfectly. And when the guys ultimately have their happy ending, it is all the more rewarding for the trials they have gone though.
One last observation, and that is this book is full of wonderful side characters who really make the story. Because as much as this book is about Joe and Ox, it is really about the power of friends, of family, and of pack. It is about the way we are connected to the people around us, more so in this case because of the wolf bonds, but still in a way we can apply to our own lives. So this outstanding case of supporting characters really making the book shine. The Bennett family, Ox’s mother, Gordo and the guys from the shop, they all play a role in the story that shows the power of community and the bonds that they form. For Ox in particular, I loved how these relationships highlight the way he moves from a young man who feels like he is not worth much, to a man who realizes how important he is to so many, and how important they are to him in return. And these friends and family add some comic relief. I mentioned the amusing scenes when the family finds out Ox’s feelings toward Joe, but I also really loved the guys at the garage and the way that they banter and interact.
As I noted, I listened to this in audio and I enjoyed Kirt Graves narration tremendously. This is a story that is all about the tone. There is a depth and intensity to it, and I think Graves captures that perfectly. Some may find the delivery to be too flat, but I found that it instead gave the exact right feel to the story. There is also a pacing and a cadence to the writing here that again Graves really gets so perfectly. I really think his delivery just fits so well with the story, that it is a great match of book and narrator. As I mentioned, there are a LOT of side characters here and Graves certainly handles them admirably. At times I found some of the folks a little too similar (Kelly and Carter Bennett, some of the guys at the garage), but for the most part I think the voices are handled well. I also noticed that Robbie at times has a strong accent, and at others it is virtually gone. But overall I think the side voices are done well. I also liked how we hear Joe’s voice age over the course of the story. I do think it would have been nice to hear a change from the time he was a little kid until he is 17, but when he returns home from his time away, I appreciated that he sounds like he has grown.
I am not sure if I am doing this story justice here. I just found it so engaging, so moving, and so beautifully written. This is a book that will stick with me, and I am so thrilled to hear that Klune is working on a sequel. I loved the world Klune creates here, loved the characters, and loved the quiet intensity of the book. I think Graves does a wonderful job with the narration and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. So this is a story I can highly recommend and one I will definitely revisit in the future.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.