feral dawn coverRating: 3.25 stars
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Length: Novel

After killing his sire to save his sister, vampire Ivan has been left in the woods to die as punishment. He has been starved and bled and sunrise is quickly approaching. Fortunately, wolf shifter Hugo finds Ivan and saves his life, bringing him to his home, feeding Ivan, and taking care of him.

Hugo has been living as a lone wolf for ten years, ever since his pack alpha kicked him out for being a threat. Hugo has stayed in wolf form for about seven years, but he now shifts in order to save Ivan. Hugo isn’t used to interacting with anyone, but he is immediately taken with Ivan, and Ivan feels the same in return.

Ivan is willing to do anything for Hugo, the man who saved him and for whom he has fallen hard. That includes finding out what is going on with Hugo’s old pack and the cruel leader who serves as alpha. Now, Hugo has a chance to reclaim his place in his old pack with Ivan at his side.

I am definitely drawn to vampire/shifter pairings (check out my Favorites list here), so I was excited to check out this story. I think Lee Colgin gives us an interesting set up here with two men who are loners, both outcasts from their supernatural societies. It creates a nice kinship among them, particularly as Hugo saves Ivan’s life. I liked that Hugo had to reacclimatize to his human form, and that Ivan’s presence seemed to ground him a little. While the dialog sometimes feels a bit stiff and formal, overall the writing here flows well and this is a nice, easy story. The guys are sweet and the story has a nice warmth, despite the sometimes violent events.

However, this is a fairly short novel (only about 100 pages) and I just felt that too much was left undeveloped for the story it tried to cover. From a romance end, these guys meet, share a conversation or two, and then are pretty much committed for life. They are basically paired up almost immediately, with no real sense of what is drawing them together beyond the fact that Ivan is grateful for Hugo saving his life. Some time does pass off page, but these guys are a couple almost instantly and, by a quarter of the way through the book, their relationship is essentially resolved. I just needed more between them to feel the connection and the chemistry, but instead it just happens very fast with not enough development.

There is also not much world building here, or set up for how these guys ended up where they are. We learn almost nothing about vampires or about Ivan’s past beyond a cursory recounting of him killing his maker. This should have felt intense and emotional, especially his feelings for his sister, but it feels more rote recitation. The world of vampires is essentially unexplored. For example, at one point we are told Hugo hears wings flapping when the vampires are near, which was an unusual detail, but it is never mentioned again or explained. There are also points where Ivan gets visions when he feeds from Hugo, and at one point he actually dreams about something that is currently happening to Hugo. However, these visions and dreams are never explained at all. Why does he have them? Is this normal for vampires? Why do they only occur some of the time? It ends up just feeling like a short cut to skip over the guys having to talk or Ivan having to learn things on his own, rather than an element of world building. The wolves are covered a bit more, as the ultimate conflict focuses on Hugo’s pack, but again, it is fairly minimal.

I just felt like everything was not developed as much as it should have been. The characters are fairly flat without much dimension or sense of who they are beyond generic nice guys. There isn’t much depth to them and it made it harder to connect. The conflict with the wolves feels somewhat cursory, though we do get more backstory to develop this issue than other areas.

One last note that his more personal preference, but there is a scene where Hugo and Ivan are sharing a deer that Hugo kills for them and Ivan gets all turned on watching Hugo eat the deer in wolf form. I get that Ivan is a vampire, so the sight of a wolf eviscerating and eating a deer isn’t as gruesome as it might be to my human sensibilities, but words like “tantalizing” and “intensely alluring” don’t really fit the situation for me as a reader.

So from an overall writing standpoint, I think this one is fine, but this story unfortunately just didn’t all come together for me. The book just didn’t develop the plot, characters, or world building in the story well enough and I was left feeling like things just skimmed the surface. The guys do have a nice sweetness and warmth together that I think helps carry the story, however. I have enjoyed other of Colgin’s work, so I’ll keep this author on my list for consideration with future books.