Rating: 4 stars
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Long ago, the people of the Yakatuk, Alaska had such a close bond with their sled dogs that something magical happened. The dogs began to change, soon becoming shifters who could live as human or dog, and were called the Qimmiq. They all lived in harmony until the humans wanted to force the Qimmiq to fight battles for them. Rather than agree, the Qimmiq left the village, never to return. They still live up in the mountains to this day, never interacting with the humans they once thought of as family.
When Taq was a child, he used to play with a strange boy while his father was fishing. Taq and Cupun were the best of friends and shared an incredibly close bond. But one day, Cupun stopped coming to their shared place and Taq never saw him again. But that doesn’t mean Taq doesn’t still think of Cupun and the connection they once had. Now, as an adult, Taq is out is his boat one day when he sees a bear about to attack two men who are fishing. To his shock, when the men start running, they also begin stripping… and turn into dogs. Taq can’t believe his eyes, certain that he must be imagining it all; he had thought those stories about the Qimmiq were just legends. But when an accident leads him to the Qimmiq camp, Taq realizes that they have been living not far from his village all along.
Cupun can’t believe it when his old friend reappears in his life. As a child, Cupun was warned away from Taq and the other humans, his pack wanting nothing to do with them. But as Taq recovers from injury, it gives him and Cupun a chance to reconnect and rekindle their friendship. Even more, the men realize that that spark of friendship they had as kids has lead to an attraction as adults. But while Taq has long known he is gay, it is not something the others in his village will readily accept. Even worse, the Qimmiq and the people of Yakatuk have been enemies for years. Now, Cupun and Taq want to finally be together, but long-brewing hatred may ruin their chances at happiness.
How to Love Thine Enemy is the sixth book in Eli Easton’s great Howl at the Moon series. The first four books follow the citizens of Mad Creek, California where the dog shifters are known as Quickened and the town serves as their safe haven. In the fifth book, How to Run with the Wolves, some of the folks from Mad Creek end up in Alaska and ultimately living with the Qimmiq. Then, this sixth book rounds out the story by taking place totally in Alaska and bringing together the people of Yakatuk and the Qimmiq. Some of the Mad Creek characters do appear here, and I think a basic understanding of this world will help a lot, even if it is just having read How to Run with the Wolves.
I have found this a really fun and entertaining series, with a lot of cleverness in the world building and the ways the humans mirror their dog sides so well. I loved the location shift in the last book to follow a different group of Quickened, in this case known as the Qimmiq, and the chance to center the story among an indigenous group and with a pack that lives so differently than the citizens of Mad Creek. Easton does a really nice job with that again here, really developing life in the small town of Yakatuk and showing us through Taq’s eyes what life is like in this very remote village that still follows many of the traditional ways of life, but also has modern elements, such as cell phones. We also see the differences between life for the Qimmiq versus those in California. The Qimmiq live much wilder lives, as they are in a harsh environment with far fewer creature comforts and are much closer to nature and their dog roots. There is some nice juxtaposition here between the two groups of shifters and I think this setting adds a lot to the story.
The relationship between Taq and Cupun is both friends to lovers, as these childhood playmates reconnect as adults, and also enemies of sorts in the sense that their communities have such animosity for one another. Easton made me feel the strength of their bond, even as the men hadn’t seen one another since childhood. I found the guys sweet together, both a little shy and slowly exploring a relationship for the first time. I had a little bit of hard time with the speed at which they are all in romantically. They make the jump from reconnecting as friends to in love and committing to a life together in what was a matter of days, so I would have liked to see that have time to develop a little more. Also, the blurb refers to this as a Romeo and Juliet trope, so I was expecting the feuding families element to play up more here. There is definitely anger and distrust among the groups, but the conflict is much more about Taq’s village accepting him being gay than about either community accepting the relationship between human and Qimmiq. I don’t feel the lack of that conflict detracted from the story, but it wasn’t quite what I expected from the blurb.
I am not clear if this is the last book in the series, or maybe the just the resolution of the storyline set in Alaska. But overall, I did find this a nice companion to the series as a whole, as well as to the story that started in the previous book. I loved the way Easton took a different spin on the world building of her series by expanding it to the Inuit people and their lives and traditions. If you enjoy shifter stories, particularly those with a softer edge, this series is a lot of fun and worth the read.