During WWII, the British government created fox and wolf shifters to use as soldiers in an attempt to turn the tides of war. While the shifters did make the difference in the Allied victory, they were never fully accepted into society and treated as inferior citizens after the war. As shifters have the ability to procreate, and human/shifter pairings always result in a shifter birth, it is now illegal for humans and shifters to have any sexual contact for fear of shifters eventually outnumbering humans. Shifters are also registered, chipped, and closely monitored by the government.
Hugo is a human in love with his fox shifter partner, Jax. The two of them have been living on the streets for seven years, ever since they realized they were mates, but could not legally be together. Even worse, as an unregistered shifter, Jax has no rights at all, and if he is ever arrested, he won’t even have a trial. It isn’t easy to survive, and the pair sometimes have to resort to stealing or taking some jobs that are less than legal, but they have no choice if they want to be together.
When the pair run into Dominic on the street, they immediately realize there is a definite connection with the stranger, and Dominic feels the same way. Though they part ways, none of the men can stop thinking about the way they feel and realize that perhaps Jax and Hugo’s partnership is really meant to be a triad. When the men encounter one another again as Hugo and Jax are attempting to flee the city for a more safe location, it is clear to them all that this attraction is really a new bond forming. It scares the men, Hugo in particular, as he worries that with Jax an omega and Dominic an alpha, there will be no place for him as a human. And Dominic doesn’t know if or how he would fit in to this already established pair, nor is he prepared to just give up his life to leave with them. The connection among the three men is strong, but now Jax, Hugo, and Dominic need to figure out if there is any way they can make a life together as a triad.
Run Free is a really interesting take on the omegaverse and the world building drew me in to the story right away. Not only are the alphas/omegas actually able to shift in this world, but the story has sort of a dystopian feel that makes it very unique. I loved the set up here, with the idea that shifters were created by the government as super soldiers, but then no longer needed or wanted when the war was over. They are mistreated, tracked, and given limited rights. Shifters can’t travel outside the UK without permission, for example. It puts Jax and Hugo in grave danger being together and they have to be constantly on the run. The story sets up some excitement, as the pair face trouble that means they must leave the country, but escaping is near impossible. So I really enjoyed the unique approach and found the beginning of this story particularly engaging as it all sets up.
I do think the Davison could have done more with the world building, however. She makes the alphas and omegas true shifters, but we virtually never see them actually shift. It seemed like a missed opportunity to add this element into the world building, but then not use it. I also think that the dystopian feel with the government tracking and controlling shifters, and the dangers the men face from the political system gets a little lost after the early part of the story. We learn about this Purity movement that hates shifters, but get very little in the way of delving into the politics. The men do have to flee, but it is not really related to their role as a human/shifter pair as much as a different problem, and I wished more was done with this really interesting set up.
Once we move past the initial portion of the book, much of the focus shifts to the relationship among the three men and figuring out if and how Dominic might fit it. I think Davison explores this nicely, showing the stressful dynamics for all three men. Jax is the omega and all his wants is both his men together. Hugo worries what it will mean for him if the alpha and omega bond, leaving him as the human out. He knows that when Jax is in heat, he will need Dominic, and Hugo worries there isn’t going to be a place for him. And Dominic feels like the odd person out, entering this relationship that is already so strong. On top of that, with Jax and Hugo needing to flee, Dominic is forced to choose between uprooting his life or leaving these men to whom he feel a strong mate bond. So I think there were some really interesting dynamics among the men that the story explores. I did feel like at times things aren’t fully developed, however. Hugo is not sure about bringing Dominic into their relationship, and then suddenly he is fine with it. Dominic is debating what to do about joining the men, and then it is just resolved. I wanted a little more exploration here, rather than just instant resolutions to these problems, particularly with Dominic. He is dealing with abandoning his entire life and moving to another country with men he has known for a few days and it seems to just be resolved so fast. There is also a fated mates element here, and while the guys do consider whether to act on it, they are attached pretty much immediately.
While I do think that the middle slowed down a lot, the ending really brings some nice adventure as the men begin to build their future. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but they face some harrowing conditions and it makes for some nice intensity. Things resolve somewhat patly by the end, but it was still engaging. So this was a enjoyable story with a unique set up that really drew me in. I think there were areas that could have been more developed to really take advantage of the world building and the relationship growth, but overall, I found this to be a really nice omegaverse story.