Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Since its inception, the mandate of the Immortal Alliance of Six is to protect the otherworlder community and avoid detection by humans. However, with the arrival of the blight, a phenomenon that turns otherworlders into raging killers, protecting the community has become “dispatching targets.” With no information on the blight’s cause or transmission, Grigori Black feels like little more than an assassin and is frustrated by his inability to find answers or help the afflicted in a way that doesn’t involve head shots. With his organizational skills, intellect, and cautious nature, being in charge of intelligence is a perfect fit, and while capable in the field, Grigori prefers his research and dislikes doing anything without a plan. Unfortunately, taking out the blighted can’t always be planned and is dangerous business, something the team is dealing with after their water delegate was killed during a mission.

When tasked to pick up their new team member, Grigori finds Murdoch Finn to be as sharp and adaptable as he is charming and attractive. The instant chemistry and explosive passion Grigori feels with Murdoch is unlike anything he’s ever experienced, and when the selkie tells him he thinks they’re mates, he’s shocked but hopeful. In his seven years with the Alliance, Grigori has found a family for himself, but not quite his place. Serious and prone to overthinking, his upbringing taught him to be self-reliant and keep people at a distance, but the camaraderie, friendship, and open affection the team has for one another gives him the home he needs. While the easy affection among the Alliance translates into open and free sexual intimacy between them, Grigori just isn’t meant for casual sex and is delighted at the prospect of a deeper, personal connection with the self-assured selkie.

As the crown prince of the selkies, Murdoch knows that his duty is to assume the throne and to lead and protect his people, even though his restless spirit longs for freedom. While he loves his people and clan, he hates the politicking of the Court and wishes he could step down. Thus, when the leader of the Alliance taps him as their new water representative, it’s an honor he can’t (and doesn’t want) to refuse; meeting his fated-mate simply assures him that he’s made the right choice. However, being fated mates doesn’t mean smooth sailing, and while Murdoch is ecstatic, he’s troubled by Grigori’s inability to feel the bond as he does and his hesitancy when it comes to opening up to him. Moreover, the extreme protectiveness and fear of losing Murdoch the bond inspires in Grigori causes him to be overbearing, making Murdoch feel like Grigori doesn’t respect his skills or strength. Between the instability of their bond, the treacherous Court politics following Murdoch, and their hazardous profession, being destined for each other may not be enough.

The Raven and His Selkie is an entertaining, quickly paced, light urban fantasy story. Told in alternating first person POVs, it’s an opposites attract, fated mates story with Grigori being serious, guarded, and analytical and Murdoch being a playful risk taker. Being the leader of the selkie army, as well as crown prince, and navigating courtly machinations has given him tactical experience and helped him be more circumspect, but at heart, Murdoch’s an impulsive, open guy. Despite being opposites, the two share feeling lonely and isolated in their tribes; Murdoch’s station makes him inherently separate from his clan, while Grigori’s fear of vulnerability but desire for personal connection keeps him from feeling like he truly belongs.

For the most part, I enjoyed the romance and think that the pair are a well-matched couple. The author does a good job quickly establishing Murdoch and Grigori’s basic character traits; their meeting is told from Grigori’s POV and his evaluation of Murdoch’s skills, intelligence, and swift thinking illustrates their compatibility and capability. For me, the first third of the story is the strongest, as the two are good at communication and seeing how well they work together and Murdoch’s integration into the Alliance family is nice. The investigation is well-paced, and the secondary plot with Murdoch’s clan is interesting. There’s a fun training scene where Grigori helps Murdoch discover the new powers gifted by the Council, which made me curious to see other members’ powers, but alas, the majority of fights in the story use guns.

As with a lot of fated mates stories, though, the bond shortchanges relationship development as the story takes place over 4-5 days. They acknowledge being fated mates hours after meeting, and despite Murdoch assuring Grigori that he can accept the bond “in [his] own time”, what he actually meant was overnight, with Murdoch worrying about being strung along…because Grigori’s still uncomfortable with the extreme intimacy after two days. Grigori is unable to sense magic, including the mate bond, so can’t feel Murdoch’s emotions and the connection like Murdoch can. Grigori is pretty guarded, so having someone be able to read his emotions and his inability to get the same feedback makes him feel unsettled and raw. How the bond makes him feel so possessive and protective also disturbs him because it makes him feel out of control and increases his fear of losing Murdoch and himself. However, it’s not just Murdoch being impatient and craving the bond, for while he wants to be known in all ways by his mate, Grigori doesn’t and so actively hides from it. Grigori’s need for control and dislike of vulnerability makes it even harder for them to connect. Grigori must open himself up and be willing to let Murdoch in, while Murdoch must learn patience and understanding for a man uncomfortable with the unexpected and relying on anyone but himself. These are all great relationship challenges to overcome, but because the issues come up and are resolved in two days, the speed of the emotional leaps, upsets, and expectations didn’t completely work for me.

The world building is solid and has just enough detail for those who like books with paranormal aspects, but not much to keep track of; it isn’t superficial per se, but there are elements and concepts that could do with a bit more fleshing out. For example, Grigori’s half human, his mom being a Harpy, but it’s unclear what version of Harpy the author is using. It’s remarked that his magic is different, but it’s unclear if this is because Harpy’s have different magic in general, different magic from shifters and witches, or if he’s different because he’s part human. Since Grigori’s inherent inability to feel the bond is a large part of the couple’s difficulties, some clarity would have helped. Additionally, what the Alliance does and how beyond the blight is unclear. They “take note of any disturbances caused by otherworlders and intervene if necessary”… but how? The Alliance is given orders by a Council of otherworlders, who are practically gods, so do they see the future and point the team in that direction? How do six people oversee the entire paranormal population of the world, etc., etc.? The reader never finds out, even though Murdoch is a newbie with no idea what the Alliance does and could serve as the reader surrogate into this new world; they go over his contract and duties off page, duties that couldn’t have been well explained because he’s still asking what they do at the end of the book.

That being said, beyond the instant expectation of connection and the compression of a lot of feels into less than a week (including the speedy resolution of the bond issues), both MCs are likable and relatable, and the story isn’t completely overpowered by the angst of not-quite-fast-enough mate bond drama. Additionally, I’m a sucker for an open, loving found family and the author does a great job with the Alliance. They aren’t unrealistically super nice; they gel well and are supportive of one another, particularly their earth delegate, Drew, who is an affable and affectionate wolf shifter. He’s always offering a helping hand (or shag) and I wouldn’t be surprised if his story were next.

All in all, The Raven and His Selkie is an enjoyable story with a straightforward investigation into a mysterious ailment, some courtly intrigue, and a couple trying to navigate their differences, as well as the complications of being mate-bonded with a teammate in a high-risk job. I recommend it for fans of fated mates, selkies, and found-family and those interested in some light paranormal, team-based action.

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