They call it The Darkness. Twenty years ago, an asteroid crashed to Earth into the Dead Sea, causing the sun to be blocked out by dirt and dust. It all cleared within two years, and now the world isn’t the same. It’s dangerous. Just walking through the woods, or the Old Town, can get you killed.
Burner is a member of a wolf shifter pack in Maine. His life is anything but easy. He helps gathering food for the pack and their upcoming, yearly trek to Quebec. Burner also helps to protect the pack from the predators in the night. He not only protects the pack, he protects his best friend, Aaron. Aaron is fragile. His beloved mother passed away, his father is a drunken abuser, and he had a complete breakdown several months back.
When Burner’s fishing net gets torn and is unusable, he asks the pack leader, Fern, if he can venture into Old Town to get another. Fern agrees and tells Burner to take Aaron with him. Leaving Aaron at the grave of his mother, Burner heads to the old shopping mall where he can go to the sporting goods store and pick up a net. While at the mall, Burner runs into a group of hunters who want to take and kill him, or sell him to the people who run wolf fighting rings, but a mysterious woman saves him.
By the time Burner and Aaron get home to the pack, those hunters have descended upon them, their home has been destroyed, and the men have been taken. A pack elder tells Burner he and Aaron must go and find them and bring them back. Thus begins the start of a long journey full of peril and monsters who live in the dark. Will they be able to rescue the men, or will they themselves be taken or killed?
I was excited to grab All the Dogs are Dancing because the blurb ticked two of my major buttons…shifters and post apocalyptic chaos. However, I’m sad to say, I just didn’t connect with this one. I really wanted to. Unfortunately, I found it to be difficult to follow and I was frequently confused as I got further in. There was a lot going on and there were a lot of side characters…bad guys, a human family in the woods, monsters, etc. I had to go back and read several passages multiple times to try and understand what was happening, but I just didn’t get a lot of it. I kept reading, though, hoping I’d relax into it, but it just never clicked for me.
I do want to say I liked Burner and Aaron very much. Protective Alphas is another big thing for me, and Burner was very much that. He looked after pups, den daughters, and especially Aaron. I was never really clear about whether he had deeper feelings than just friendship with Aaron, but there is a dream sequence where he envisions them to be married raising a daughter (an AI girl they find along the way…it’s all very confusing) together in a happily ever after scenario. I felt so much for Aaron. He loved his mother so much and she died. I was able to connect with him about that. When I lost my mother, I felt lost and constantly heartbroken. Not only was he in mourning, he had to deal with an abusive father (he’s much more than that, but once again, it’s somewhat confusing) who is also a violent drunk. For some reason, I think there may be a mention of Burner’s age (I keep thinking 23, but I’m not sure.), but I don’t remember any sort of mention of Aaron’s. I figure he was somewhere between 18-23 himself, so I wondered if he could have moved out of his father’s house to at least save himself from the daily beatings.
The story began to fall apart for me when Burner is in the shopping mall. He runs into hunters, but there’s also a woman who saves him from them. She’s a Deadwalker, a monster for lack of a better word. However, there are other Deadwalkers in the book who are actual monsters…think Walking Dead. I got the impression they bit, and/or ate, other people. Once you kill them, they turn into a puddle of goo…think the true death on True Blood. I was never clear how there were two kinds of these things, and how one of them could even be the “King” of New York.
I don’t want to say there were plot holes, per se. I think it was just the fact there was, as I mentioned, a lot going on. I felt it was too busy. There was some decent world building, but it seemed like some things were…missing. The ending was left open, and that gives me the impression there will be at least one sequel. If that’s the case, there is plenty of opportunity for the author to delve into it further.
I didn’t really get a romantic vibe from Burner and Aaron until near the end. I almost thought there wouldn’t be any romance, and this was going to be a story about two men who might be gay, but not a romance. They did find their way to each other near the end of the book and it was nice. I didn’t really feel any sort of explosive chemistry between them. Passion was missing. There’s one sex scene, and it was well written, but I didn’t feel it. Maybe I too lost by then, but I can say I was happy for them. After everything they’d gone through, they deserved some comfort and love.
There are a lot of background characters. So many I couldn’t include them here. I will mention Fern, the pack leader. I got the feeling Burner was his favorite. He was wise and seemed patient with the pack’s pups as he tried to teach them to fish and gather food. Even after he was taken with the other men, his presence was definitely felt throughout the story. With Burner it was a sort of WWFD (What Would Fern Do?) situation. After that, there were some nefarious characters, a really nice human family Burner and Aaron come upon with a little girl who takes to Burner right away, hunters, Deadwalkers, and other various people they run into along the way. There is also the female Deadwalker who saved Burner at the shopping mall. Her name is September 24th Amon. Apparently, they are named after the date they became a Deadwalker. She was an interesting character, and I’ll say I’d have liked to have known more about her. Once again, I’m hoping for a sequel and maybe there will be some explanation.
As I mentioned, the ending was left somewhat open. I might consider it a happily ever after for Burner, Aaron, and Robin (the little AI girl they found). In fact, Burner even called it an HEA. Honestly, even though I didn’t feel connected to this story, I really am hoping for a sequel. I feel like there were some definite loose ends, and I’m curious how the author will (hopefully) continue with this particular world.
I’m going to cautiously recommend All the Dogs are Dancing to fans of the paranormal, or to fans of a post apocalyptic world. If you go into this thinking it’s going to be a run of the mill shifter romance, you’ll be wrong. However, it’s interesting concept. If a sequel indeed becomes available, I wouldn’t hesitate to read it.