Spencer is going to have to spend his last year at school away from his best friend and living in a remote town. When his family decides to move out to Victoria to help his Grandad with his sheep farm, Spencer isn’t thrilled to say the least. He loves his grandparents, but leaving Kelsey, the one person who knows he is gay and to whom he can tell anything, is going to be really hard. But Spencer has his second love, his horse, and at least that’s some consolation.
While riding with his dad, Spencer sees the hanging tree where hunters leave the remains of the foxes they have hunted and killed. It’s a barbaric ritual and sickens Spencer who understands the hatred sheep farmers have of the predators, but not the inhumane killing of the foxes. It’s on that trip that Spencer spots Connor Coutts—the boy who lives in the woods. Connor has a secret that no one must ever learn, but a moment of anger and a freak storm places Connor directly in Spencer’s path and the emotions that flare between them make it hard to keep the secret for very long.
In what I am fairly sure is her first foray into the young adult genre, author Isabelle Rowen gives us Furborn, a coming of age and coming out paranormal story. One could almost call this a fantasy driven novel since it is steeped in magical lore and a rich history of how the furborn (shifter foxes) and ravens came to be in Australia. As far as a YA novel goes, this one is very well done with both boys being seventeen and the sex occurring off page and more hinted at than realized. But that doesn’t keep this story from being a thrilling venture into the dangerous world of a species being hunted down simply because they pose a threat to the farmers’ way of life. That may be an understandable thing but the hanging tree where the ravaged bodies of the dead are hung and the descriptions of how sometimes foxes are given to the hunting dogs to be torn apart before being killed is really quite brutal to read.
Rowen doesn’t mince words and her intent is obviously to draw attention to the brutal way in which foxes are culled and farm animals are kept safe. She does so by wrapping her message up in a beautiful slowly developing romance and friendship that features an accepting family and a lovely remote setting that adds to the mysticism surrounding the paranormal features in the novel. I really enjoyed watching these two boys move from enemies (on Connor’s part) to friends and more. The hate Connor feels for anyone who hunts his kind is real and extends to Spencer’s family, despite them being so kind to Connor. It is a hate born out of fear that he and his family will be hunted and killed—after all, his own mother and his sister’s husband have already hung from that accursed tree.
I also liked the idea of how the furborn and the ravens had their beginnings steeped in mysticism and lore. It made this whole shifter trope take on a more magical feel and gave it a special something that kept it from being just another typical paranormal story. I felt Isabelle Rowan wove a lovely romance and coming out tale that anyone of any age could enjoy.
Perhaps the only thing that kept me from giving this five stars was the ending. The threat to the furborn was still very real and yet it seemed to be brushed aside at the end and while it helped the idea of a happy ever after, it still hung in the balance. Since the entire story is based on this threat to the furborn’s very existence, I felt that the novel was left a bit unresolved—perhaps that may mean a sequel? No indication was given that this may be the case and so I can only assume that the author chose to end the story in this way, which left me to wonder if anything would ever really change for Connor and his family.