Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

Marshall isn’t used to being sick. As a retired special forces officer and co-owner of Black Star Gyms, as well as one of its teachers, Marshall is used to being in peak condition. But something has changed and, bit by bit, Marshall is getting sicker. Saint, his best friend, brother in all but blood, and possessive tiger shifter, has been with him through thick and thin, and is now serving as Marshall’s support as Marshall can barely walk some days. And it’s getting worse.

A chance encounter with a bear shifter doctor leads Marshall and Saint to the West Mill Pack where wolf shifter alpha, Aaron, is suffering from identical symptoms. When Aaron and Marshall’s eyes meet across the room, it’s electrifying, and not in a good way, as both men fall instantly unconscious, Aaron suffering a seizure. For all that this seems like a disaster, it’s actually something almost miraculous. The two men have, between them, an Anima Vinculum, or soul bond, something that happens perhaps once a generation.

However, it’s never before happened between a shifter and a human.

Soul Bound is the first book in the West Mill Pack series, and it shows all the trademarks of being an introductory book, as there seems to be more focus on introducing a cast of characters than there is on the plot. In a world of shifters, fae, vampires, humans, gargoyles, and witches, we’re introduced to at least one of each — especially since the West Mill Pack is all inclusive. The world building is nicely slid into story exposition, with talks about Stone City, supernaturals versus humans, and a great war all happening within the framework of whether Marshall may or may not be fully human.

Marshall and Aaron are well matched. Marshall, having grown up with a tiger shifter best friend, is well aware of how shifters act and what they react best (and worst) to. In the army, while serving in the special forces, he had to command a unit made of shifters and other supernaturals as a human, and learned how to stand firm, not back down, and how to lead. He’s stubborn, afraid of showing weakness, afraid of being weak. And his reaction to any emotional discomfort is to put a large distance between himself and whatever is causing the feelings.

Aaron has been a pack leader in training ever since childhood. He’s a born nurturer, fond of playing with the children — and he sees it as much a part of his duties as pack leader as paperwork. He tries to be balanced and fair and, perhaps owing to his wolf side, is very focused on harmony within and finding support in his pack. Aaron feels strongest when he has his people around him, feels most useful when helping them, and would do anything for them. He’s strength to Marshall’s fragility, soft to Marshall’s hard edges, and someone Marshall can lean on, give into, and trust to take care of him.

It’s a slow path for them, from fated mates with no choice in the matter; for all that there’s a strong physical connection between the two of them, the mystical one is pushing them faster and harder than they might have found for themselves given the chance. Towards the end of the book something happens, but that event is mostly to foreshadow events that will most likely take place in following books. Side characters are already eyeing one another and hints of a greater conspiracy lurk at the edges, all of which made the pace feel very unbalanced. It’s a lot of slow work between the main couple, followed by a turbulent ending that patches up Aaron and Marshall’s issues too easily so that the story can move on with someone else in the next book.

That’s not to say this is a bad book. I just feel like the pacing and balance between characters and plot was a little lopsided. The writing is fine, though there are small issues of needless repetition in the early chapters, with an event taking place in the narration, then being referenced in dialogue, followed by another mention in someone’s thoughts or further narration — often all on the same page. I have hopes that the second book will smooth out the small bumps because the world the author has created is interesting, and I’m looking forward to exploring it.

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