When the Lukoi first came to their island as exiles, one small group left the rest and the other settlers assumed they all died out. However, the group managed to survive the harsh weather and settled into a cave on the other side of the island, forming a home known as the Compound. Yet they did not make it to safety unscathed. When a guard killed a witch, she cursed him and his descendants, giving them the ability to shift into a wolf, but also giving anyone who touches their fur the power to control them.
While the bulk of the Lukoi settlers eventually formed a village based on community and helping to take care of one another, the cave dwellers in the Compound developed a different society based on harsh control and a violent settling of disputes. Zephyr was born into the Compound, one of the rare descendants of the cursed guard who inherited the ability to shift. As a baby, Zephyr was given over to a cruel leader named Evgen, who used Zephyr’s fur to control him, making him fight in the pits and keeping him as essentially a slave. He also convinced Zephyr that he was dangerous, ready to give in to his wilder nature at any moment, and that he could not be trusted around others.
Now an adult, Zephyr hates being forced to fight and hates knowing that Evgen can control him. One day, Zephyr finally manages to escape the Compound, stealing back his fur and slipping into his wolf form for the first time. Zephyr has heard stories about the other Lukoi on the island and manages to make his way to their village, where he is found by their leader, Dragan Wolf-Breaker. At first, Zephyr is too afraid to reveal his dual nature to Dragan and stays in his wolf form. Not only is he wary about explaining his ability to shift, but Zephyr knows that if Dragan learns the truth about his fur, he can compel Zephyr to do whatever he wants, just like Evgen. Before long, however, Dragan discovers the truth. Yet Dragan has no desire to use Zephyr’s fur; he is horrified at the idea of someone losing their free will. Dragan is a dominant man and a community leader. He is used to being followed out of respect, not control.
As the men spend more time together, a connection grows between them and they start falling for each other, so much so that they decide to become officially mated. They have been keeping Zephyr’s shifting ability a secret from most of the community, as Zephyr still doesn’t feel totally comfortable allowing others to know about his vulnerability. But when it becomes clear that Evgen is looking for Zephyr, planning to force him back into servitude in the Compound, Dragan and Zephyr realize that they have no choice but to trust the people of the village if there is any hope of keeping Zephyr safe.
Spring of the Wolf is the second book in Iris Foxglove’s excellent Seasons of the Lukoi series. The books take place in a fantasy world where everyone naturally has dominant or submissive tendencies. It is set in the same world as the authors’ Starian Cycle series, though these books so far seem to be milder on the kink scale with mostly a Dom/sub dynamic, but not really hard core kink. You can easily read these books without reading the other series, and you can probably even start here with this book without reading Winter of the Owl. That said, these first two books flow beautifully from one to the other and I think it is definitely worth starting with book one if you can for the fullest sense of the Lukoi and to meet some key side characters.
I really loved the setup here as, in the first book, we learn that this splinter group of early Lukoi died out, only to find out here that they in fact have survived and live in another part of the island, unbeknownst to the main settlers. So we have this second society that functions so differently from the communal nature of the village we have gotten to know, and I loved the juxtaposition that offers. We see these two communities that started at the same time and yet their cultures differ based on a cooperative nature versus a competitive one. This story also adds more of a magical element as we learn about the curse and the ability of some people to shift. It is an interesting take on shifters, as Zephyr sheds his fur when he shifts to human, and anyone touching his pelt has the ability to compel him. It kind of made me think of selkie lore and I thought the world building worked it all in very cleverly. There is also the obvious tie in then with Dragan’s village, as they were founded after an early leader went out and studied the wolves as a model for their society, and Dragan himself is known as the Wolf-Breaker. So the world building continues to be really interesting here and I appreciated the way the authors have grown and expanded the lore from the first book, while still giving it all a consistent feel.
The main conflict here comes with Zephyr and the threats to him from Evgen, as well as anyone else who might try to control him. It sets up an interesting parallel that fits in well with the larger world building. On one hand we have Evgen, who uses magical coercion to gain Zephyr’s obedience. Then we have Dragan, a natural dominant, who is horrified that anyone would take control from someone, rather than having it freely given. As the men fall for one another and Zephyr comes to trust Dragan, he has a chance to let his natural submission come out. We get to see Zephyr really come into his own, both to learn that not everyone is out to hurt him, but also to learn to trust himself after years of Evgen convincing him he has the potential for violence. There is a lovely growth arc for his character and I really liked the two men together. There is a nice sense of two men finding what they need from each other and I enjoyed watching Zephyr find his home and happiness with Dragan.
This series has this sort of lush, warm tone to it that really just draws me in. There is a magical feel about the Lukoi and their community and the tone of the writing is such a perfect fit for the story. We once again get some hints here at the end for what is to come in the next book and, after reading the blurb, I am super excited for the next story in the series. I am really enjoying these books quite a lot and definitely recommend them, particularly for those that like a light fantasy world with magical elements and some mild Dom/sub vibes.