cold hard ground coverRating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Kor is an Alpha and was a general in the First War between humans and wolves. For years, wolf rights had been slowly taken away, forcing wolves away from their families and packs, until finally the wolves refused to take it any longer, leading to war. But just as peace was finally at hand, Kor was kidnapped by the humans and experimented upon for months. Kor is now emaciated and in pain and has lost his eyesight. But when a human at the lab offers to help Kor escape, he finds the inner strength to keep fighting.

Misha found himself held captive in the same genetics lab as Kor, only in his case, his captor was his own father, the head scientist. Misha doesn’t know what they scientists were trying to do to him, he just knows he is now changed in ways he can’t understand. When an opportunity comes to break free of the lab with Kor, Misha seizes it, even though he knows that the wolves aiding the rescue are just as likely to kill him for being human as to thank him for saving Kor.

As strong as Kor has always been, his body is now betraying him. Among his many injuries, he has lost his sight and adapting isn’t easy, particularly as Kor has little time to figure things out. He was rescued because he is a leader among the wolves and he must quickly step into his role as lead Alpha to help the resistance. As the wolves learn more about why Kor was captured, it becomes clear that there has been betrayal by those they should trust, and the only path forward is to fight back.

Kor and Misha find a connection almost right away, though a wolf and a human should never work. They definitely shouldn’t form a bond the way that the men have, but there is something between them that means the pull to be mates is impossible to ignore. But something has changed in Misha, and no one is clear whether he can ultimately survive. Even as Kor is starting to heal, Misha’s future is uncertain. Now, as Kor must step up to lead his people in a revolution, he also must hope that he will be able to have the man he loves by his side.

Cold Hard Ground is the first book in a new dystopian, omegaverse series by Ariel Millar, the paranormal pen name for author E.M. Lindsey. I would follow Lindsey pretty much anywhere, but I was particularly excited about this series as I love dystopian stories, and the mix with the omegaverse is such an interesting twist. Often omegaverse tends toward the fluffier end, or very focused on the heat/mating side of things. So I loved the darker, dystopian angle, particularly with the fascinating world Lindsey creates. I would say the vibe of this story leans more to the dystopian side of things than the shifter and omegaverse side, fwiw, and this story has no mpreg.

So Millar sets up a really fascinating world here and I was caught up right away. We start right in the action with Kor held captive in the lab and Misha breaking him free. We learn more about the history of the war between the wolves and humans and Kor’s role as a leader fairly quickly, but the story slowly unveils what happened to cause Kor’s capture, what the scientists are hoping to achieve with their experiments, as well as what is going on politically with both the humans and wolves. I don’t want to go into detail here because learning what is happening is part of the fun, but I will say that Millar really develops an interesting world and a great conflict. I love that we are following along with the resistance as they take on the leaders on both sides, and there is a great sense of an epic showdown to come.

Kor is a famed general and brought back to lead the resistance, but he is struggling with adapting to his blindness and worried that others will not see him as strong enough to lead. Things are made more difficult by the fact that his body is weak from being in the lab, so he is not at full strength. Wolves have a tendency to view physical disabilities as a weakness and he knows there will be those who do not want him to lead. So we get to see Kor regaining his own confidence and sense of self as he learns to accept his blindness and realize that he can adapt and still lead. Millar also does a nice job getting us into Kor’s head and providing great details as to how his other senses react to the loss of sight and the way he adapts. One of the author’s hallmarks under the Lindsey pen name is including characters of varying physical abilities and, as always, it is incorporated very well, showing Kor’s challenges, but also that he is the same strong leader he always was.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Kor and Misha. It starts off with the men bonding by circumstance as they are relying on one another to get to safety and stay alive until their rescue. But there is also is a strong emotional and romantic connection that develops between the men, and it’s clear that it is more than just biology bringing them together. Misha has so much inner strength, and even though he is not as physical tough as the wolves, he is the emotional core that really helps support Kor as he regains his leadership role. I also enjoyed Misha’s role as a historian, as he serves as a narrator of sorts, providing some context on the war and the history of the human/wolf interaction. I don’t want to give too much away as to what is happening to Misha and what risks he faces, but I loved how things develop for him.

So I just went crazy for this one and I can not wait for the rest of the series. Millar really sets things up well for the overarching story with this first book, building the conflict and setting the stage for the next steps in the resistance fight. Kor and Misha are really engaging heroes, and we meet a variety of interesting side characters who flesh out the story, some of whom appear as MCs for future books. I am super excited about this series and am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

P.S. Millar wrote a free short story as part of a winter giveaway called Nothing to Lose that is a prequel to this series. It features two different characters who met before the First War and fell for one another and are reunited over the course of the story. You absolutely do not need to read it first, particularly because the characters are only mentioned in passing here. But I found it a nice way to set the stage for the larger world building that is to come in the main series. The story is not currently available, but if you have it already, or if Millar ends up making it available, it’s fun to read it first.

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