Narrator: Dorian Bane
Length: 6 hours, 55 minutes
Adrian Rothschild is a werewolf in name only. When puberty hit him, the usual things happened: his voice changed, he grew a bit taller, grew a bit hairier… but he didn’t turn into a werewolf. No matter what his family has tried, therapists, doctors, specialists, nothing has worked. Oh, he still feels the pull of the moon, has a few heightened senses, but that is it. He is simply Adrian, son of a werewolf alpha and a human. Life goes on and Adrian goes to school, gets a job, gets a place to live, and resigns himself to his fate.
On a work trip, Adrian begins to have a headache. He’s convinced the people in the hotel room above him must be elephants with the way they’re stomping around. The hotel room reeks, the lights in the bathroom are too bright and buzzing, and he can’t get rid of his headache. By the time Adam figures out he needs help, it’s almost too late. Staggering down the street in the middle of the day, Adrian collapses. When he wakes, he finds himself in a hospital bed. He’s not sick, it’s just … Adrian’s going through The Change. A decade too late, his pack on the other side of the country, and no idea what’s going to happen to him.
Tate is a therapist at Camp H.O.W.L., a summer camp for young werewolves where they can learn to control their shift surrounded by trees, a lake, and other werewolves, where the risk of discovery is severely limited. He’s good at his job, he likes his job, and — for the most part — he even likes the kids. When the camp is told there’s a late bloomer who needs to be brought to the camp before he shifts in public, Tate is assigned to pick him up. Little does he know that the young man in question would actually be a grown man.
No one knows what will happen to Adrian during his shift. Will it be more painful? Will it be harder for him to shift or easier, will he be able to fully connect with his wolf, will he have a harder time learning to control the change? Adrian has a thousand questions and yes, he is scared, but Tate’s calming presence helps with the anxiety and when it’s time to actually change shape, it’s Tate he wants there with him. Unfortunately, Tate isn’t so certain he wants to be there. Or should be there.
Having a friend with you during your first shift helps. It’s why the kids at Camp H.O.W.L. are encouraged to bond with one another, to offer one another the emotional support they need as their bodies go through the traumatic change. Adrian’s too old to feel comfortable with the camp kids — most of whom have already formed bonds with one another — and Tate would be perfect. Adrian trusts him, Tate knows what he’s doing, and… it’s his job. Unfortunately Tate is attracted to Adrian, and Adrian seems to feel the same for him. Tate will have to learn to overcome his past if he stands any chance at all of a future with Adrian.
I am a fan of world building — that’s no surprise to anyone who has read my reviews — and this book is chock full of it. The idea of a summer camp for young werewolves is a fun one. It adds the sense of a werewolf community and culture, that shifters from Oregon, Florida, or Michigan can send their youngsters off to learn how to be a wolf without having them roaming through city parks or getting caught by the local news. To think of werewolf kids learning to canoe, to light campfires, to hunt down rabbits in the woods … I just think it’s adorable.
Adrian, while nervous about his shift, also enters into it with a sense of joy. This is what he’s been waiting for all his life, this is what he’s wanted all his life even when he knew he’d never have it, and now it’s here. He embraces the pain and doesn’t let it hold him back from shifting to a wolf. He glories in the experience and revels in every unpleasant, exhausting, and messy part of it. Many authors make a point that shifting must hurt, but this book goes farther and with more imagination. The toll shifting takes on a body, hormones, endorphins, calories burned, even the emotional weight of a shift — especially since it normally happens to werewolf teenagers during puberty — is considered and dealt with.
When he was in the hospital, Adrian was focusing on Tate and Tate’s voice to keep away the panic attack, and because of that it’s Tate he’s bonded with, even fixated on. The strength of their bond, no matter how Tate might try to push it away, and the sexually charged nature of it means that this might be more than just a strong pair bond or a shift bond. It might by the near mythical Moonmating. For Adrian, the two of them being Moonmates just means that he and Tate are free to fully embrace one another. For Tate, though, the very idea is repellent.
Tate grew up in a very different sort of pack. Rather than the traditional alpha pair it was his father, the alpha, and the many females he chose to take as his mates. He used the word Moonmate as an excuse as to why he was able to bond to so many women and sire so many children. It was a pack of heavy handed discipline with Tate’s father quick to use his fists and teeth. Tate escaped his father and swore to never be part of a pack again, both to avoid the risk of an alpha he disliked and to protect his father. If Tate swore himself to an alpha, that alpha could demand to know where Tate’s family were, to take them to task, and perhaps to destroy the pack. When Tate hears Kenya — a fellow counselor and one of his only friends — say that Adrian might be Tate’s Moonmate he’s torn between disbelief and disgust. Disbelief because he’s never heard of a true Moonmated pair and disgust, because it brings back memories of his father. He fights the idea of the bond while never actually being able to deny the bond itself.
I listened to the audiobook version of Camp H.O.W.L., narrated by Dorian Bane and it was … interesting. Bane’s voice didn’t fit my mental images for either Adrian or Tate at all, but once I got past my own personal bias, I found him very easy to listen to. He has a pleasant, conversational style and while I sometimes found it hard to tell some of the voices apart, he kept Tate and Adrian very separate and managed Kenya’s accent nicely. I’d be interested to hear more books with his narration.
This is a sweet story with a happily ever after and more world building than I’d expected. While it’s not a wholly new approach to werewolves, it’s a more in-depth look at a world where shifters exist alongside humans, with nods to Instagram, YouTube, and teenagers being just a little more emotional than sensible. Adrian and Tate are a cute couple and I enjoyed their story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.