stone the crowsRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

As the endless and unrelenting winter continues, Dr. Nicholas Blake has been sent to care for the dead. What was supposed to be a short assignment has turned into more as the need is overwhelming with so many sick and dying and no way to care for them all. Nick knows what this winter means. He heard enough stories from his grandmother growing up: “When the Winter arrives, the Wolves will come down over the walls and eat little boys in their beds.” He doesn’t want to believe her tales, doesn’t want to believe the things he sees. It is better to just let himself pretend. But when Nick finds a man nearly dead from a vicious attack, the reality Nick prefers to keep at a distance can’t be ignored.

Gregor has always hated his brother Jack, the two having been rivals since birth. But the two fought together when facing an attack by the prophets. Now those prophets have stolen Gregor’s wolf and left him for dead, and taken Jack and his partner, Danny. Gregor may want to see Jack dead, but there is no way he is letting anyone else do it.

As the prophets and their army of monsters grow ever closer, Nick and Gregor form an unlikely partnership, one that grows into feelings for one another as well. But the wolf winter is cold and harsh and filled with danger. Rescuing Jack and Danny won’t be easy, and stopping the prophets will be even harder. But if Gregor and Nick can lean on each other, just maybe they can make it out alive.

Stone the Crows is the second book in the Wolf Winter series and follows closely on the heels of Dog Days. Given the way the stories interconnect, this book is best read after the first.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Dog Days is the wonderful world building and tone to the story. It is a paranormal, with kind of a post-apocalyptic feel as the world is filled with unrelenting snow and ice. This is the end of days and by the time Stone the Crows picks up, things are pretty desperate all around. There is definitely a bleakness and intensity to the book, even more so than the first story. I think that is partly due to the fact that things are becoming even more serious, and also due to Gregor, who is a hard man for sure. He is the more savage brother, more wild and more intense, and that shows in his interactions. Moore does a nice job carrying that into the tone of the story and really expanding the world building nicely here. It isn’t pretty; the book has much gore and sweaty bodies and stinky breath, vicious attacks and rotting flesh. There is an edginess here that Moore manages to sustain nicely throughout the book and that fits with the plot quite well.

Gregor and Nick are an interesting pair. There is a connection between them almost right away, one neither really understands but accepts nonetheless. As I said, Gregor is a hard, cold man, but he has a soft spot for Nick and I liked seeing those bits of tenderness from an otherwise stoic man. Nick is also fascinating, more so as the story continues and we learn about his background. The guys don’t have a lot of time alone and their feelings for one another felt somewhat fast to me. I can allow for the intensity of the situation to speed things up, but I still hard a hard time feeling the love between them after so little time doing anything but barely surviving. But there is a fragile hope that we get from their relationship that I really enjoyed and that I think works well with the story.

My only real issue here is that once again I found myself quite overwhelmed following a lot of it. I’ll admit I feel like I fully understood only about two-thirds of the story, and the rest of the time I just felt like I was mostly getting was happening (and at times less than that). The portions dealing with the characters and their relationship were clear, and the earlier parts of the book where we are focused on the more contemporary world issues worked fine. But as we get deeper into the lore and the paranormal elements, I did feel like a lot was just going over my head. So this isn’t a light read and it sometimes took a couple of passes for me to feel like I understood some of the elements.

Stone the Crows resolves from a relationship end, but the bigger picture with the prophets and the larger attack on the wolves is not yet resolved. I am wondering if the next book will reconnect us with both couples, or if it will feature a new pair. Either way, I am eager to see what happens next.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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