Deckard, enforcer of the Ironheld Wolf Pack, knows two things. First, the human racing away from the pack of coyote shifters is his mate. And second, he’s not going to let those scum lay so much as a finger on him. Facing down a pack of cowardly coyotes is nothing new, but the trembling man in his arms needs Deck more than he needs to put the fear of his pack into the other shifters, so Deck — with little more than a snarl and a kick — takes his mate home.
Being mated to a human isn’t ideal, but Deck isn’t going to argue. His shifter instincts are telling him to protect and care for the man no matter who or what he is, but Deckard isn’t an animal, and needs to know that this human isn’t going to be a threat to his pack. After all, what human can outrun shifters? And why were the coyotes chasing him towards the Ironheld territory rather than deeper into the Between? Unfortunately, answers are going to be hard to come by because his mate has no memory.
It’s not amnesia, strictly speaking. This doesn’t seem to have been caused by a blow to the head or trauma — though the countless whip scars over his back speak to a hard life. Instead, this memory loss seems to be something made. The man, who accepts the name Colt, has no memory before finding himself in Deck’s arms as he saves him from the coyotes. Even the sight of his own face in the mirror sends Colt into a panic attack. He doesn’t know the name for various foods or plants, and as much as Deck wants to simply wrap his arms around his mate and hold on, that isn’t going to happen. Because what he has in front of him is someone who needs his help, not someone who needs to be taken advantage of.
This second installment in the Metal and Magic series has more to do with magic, than metal. In the first book, we learned that a dragon woke up, forcing paranormal creatures such as shifters and mages (among others) to reveal themselves in order to fight it. This left humans, already upset by the whole dragon thing, with another enemy — one that was easier to comprehend, closer at hand, and easier to kill — and caused a period of violence and suspicion. While things are more settled and civilized now, shifters are still relegated to the fringes, placed as a natural border between humanity and the Between, where monsters still lurk. So, with Colt being human, there are certain biases already in place. That he will be hostile, bigoted, or that he may simply, when his memory returns, leave. But Deck’s not too concerned about that. He’s seen human and shifter pairings work; his own sister married a human, and the Ironheld pack has done just fine. Or had, until his sister died and Deck left the pack home to live on his own. His grief has made him colder, more curt ,and caused his pack to worry about him. Now, with the pain of his sister’s loss muted by time, he has someone new in his life, someone whose needs lead him back to his pack, back to his family.
However, Colt spends much of the book with no personality beyond fear, not truly revealing himself until the final chapters. And that’s somewhat my problem with this book. When Colt’s memories return, so does his original personality, which we barely get to see. He’s there for a moment, facing down Deck, before Deck’s attention is taken elsewhere. All of Colt’s actions — or the person Colt is and was before he lost his memory — take place where no one can see them, which means when he’s finally back with Deck, Colt is back to acting like the person he has been with Deck this whole time, rather than himself. Which means Deck’s whole “I want you when you’re whole and your true self” moment was wasted, because Colt isn’t allowed to be anyone but the frail and blank slate that he’s been through the whole book.
The story ends on an abrupt cliffhanger that felt a little clumsy, to me. Still, the writing is strong, though I found the author’s choice to italicize all brand names, like Harley and Powerade, to be very distracting. I’m used to italics being use to emphasize words, and it made those moments feel jarring. But that’s just personal taste. This story, Shifting Shadows, was previously published in 2018 and, like Metal Heart, has been expanded. If you enjoyed the first book, you’ll probably enjoy this one too.