Ryu is an outcast omega, exiled to the Outlands and bereft of pack, friends, or the ability to take the shape of his wolf. But it’s alright. He’s fine. He’s fine. Well, not fine, but he’ll do what he’s always done. He’ll survive, and while he does he’ll spend his time killing Lycans — feral, monstrous shifters whose bestial forms are a horrifying combination of wolf and man, infectious and horrifying — and keeping them from spreading their poison, eating helpless people, and burning their bodies. Ryu will survive today and live until tomorrow, taking food and drink where and as he can, and quick sex from a nameless alpha when his heat comes on him. No one cares about him, and he shares the sentiment.
Until chance, for good or ill, brings Ryu face to face with Micah. His mate. The Alpha who bonded to him, fought for him, and then turned his back on him. Micah allowed Ryu to be tortured, the skin of his back flayed with a knife, an iron chain wrapped around his waist, and then tossed into an icy lake to drown. But Ryu didn’t drown, and he doesn’t forget. Everything he endured, the pain and humiliation, the isolation and suffering, all for Micah. And Micah chose the Silvercrest Pack over Ryu. No, he’ll never forget. And he’ll never forgive.
The Lycan disease is spreading. It’s no longer staying to the feral outcasts who infect through bites or shared blood. Amaya, Ryu’s beloved mother figure is sick, and no one knows how or who gave it to her. Their only hope for a cure is a quest to find a necromancer who may, for a price, be willing to give Micah the cure. Ryu would do anything for Amaya, even if it means walking with Micah, side by side, pretending to be his mate once again.
Claw of Exile is the first book in the Exiled series. Ryu is a truly tragic victim hero. As an omega of a broken pack, the Filthy Claws, occupied by a stronger, crueler invading pack, he lived in fear of being sold on the black market. At eight, his only friend and protector was an eleven-year-old boy who wanted to own Ryu, who kept him isolated from anyone else lest they touch him, or look at him, or get ideas about him. When the two of them were found by the Silvercrest Pack, his friend was taken away to be thrown into the mines and Ryu is sold to a house where his life gets … better? He’s a servant, and the woman of the house adores him, but she makes no effort to protect him from the abuse her son heaps upon him. The only brightness in Ryu’s life, beyond getting to eat food more than once a day, is Micah.
Micah is the bright, shining alpha heir of Silvercrest, and Ryu adores him. Micah is his savior, the only person in all of Silvercrest, minus Amaya, who looks at him as something more than garbage. Not that their friendship can be anything more than secret because Ryu is a Filthy Claw, and Micah hates Filthy Claws. Everyone does. It’s why they beat him, starve him, torture him, spit on him and try to kill him — adults and children alike — with no one so much as batting an eye. But Micah smiles at him, meets him in the dead of night, and for four years Ryu is happy. and Micah gets a pretty omega to love him so long as no one knows. Micah takes what he wants, leaving Ryu to scrabble for scraps — and Ryu, sweet, loving and forgiving soul that he is, has learned to make a feast of crumbs.
When it comes time for Micah to make up for what happened, what he allowed to happen, it felt cheap and lackluster. The big problem with Micah’s ‘redemption’ is that we are shown, through Ryu’s heartsick and all-too forgiving eyes, just how badly Micah screwed him over. As a reader, I can see the isolation, the possessiveness, the lack of communication or even consideration for Ryu, even as Ryu sees only stars and rainbows when Micah is near. So when we’re told by another character that Micah really did try to make things right, it doesn’t have the same resonance, or come close to feeling as though it balances out the horrible things he did and allowed to be done.
The selling point of this book is Ryu, his suffering and his growth from victim to personhood. The weak point is the story itself. While the world building is good and the info dumps are entertaining — told through Ryu’s biased opinion and sneering asides — the plot itself is disjointed and scattered. The red herring was well done, but the ending itself came up abruptly with very little foreshadowing. I felt as though I was meant to be surprised, which I was, rather than being guided along.
This book is worth a read if you’re into darker werewolf books with some solid world building and a bitter, wounded, but healing main character.
Note: My copy of this book was an ARC that had yet to go through the final editing pass. I noticed a variety of editorial issues that I assume will be resolved in the final edits. Also, the author notes that they consider this book gay literature, as well as being a dark romance.