Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars

Narrator: Michael Dean
Length: 7 hours, 27 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Scout is a wolf shifter with two packs. In his family pack, where he grew up since being rescued as a child, loved and safe, he is known as Jack Jerrick. And he also has Logan’s pack, where as Scout, he has joined his team who, at the Oracle’s direction, do their best to keep the human realm safe from supernatural threats. Scout has learned and grown and become quite the superhero in his own right since he began going on missions with his team. He’s also drawn to one of his team members, dragon shifter Coal Volsunga, though Coal doesn’t seem to want to give him the time of day, Scout doesn’t let that stop him from having Coal’s back. Even when it might lead to injury.

Coal is inexplicably drawn to the young wolf, but he also knows that nothing should come of it. Coal is grumpy and standoffish, needing his space and his solitude. But Coal will stop at nothing to keep Scout safe. When Scout is injured, he’s angry that Scout put himself in harm’s way. But Coal walks a fine line of his attraction and being too overbearing.

The team finally has a lead where the big, mysterious threat is concerned. Sending in Scout and Taj, they finally get a break. But it takes more out of Scout that anyone anticipated. Scout needs care, and Coal is right there to give it to him. It’s the final straw that breaks down the wall between them. Finally allowing their feelings to come out, Scout and Coal mate and both are ecstatic about taking that step. But the danger is far from over, and it’s not without consequences, especially for Scout. Just when things seem to be getting back on an even keel, disaster strikes again and it’s a race against time to keep everyone alive.

I want to make a quick note that this story contains both talk of past abuse and some on page torture. Though neither is in depth or for too long, it is something to be aware of.

If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been both reading and listening to all the books in the Chosen One universe as they have come out. This is the fourth book in the Chosen Champions series, which is a spinoff of the larger universe. This series is more self contained than the rest of the books in the larger world, but there are plenty of cameos from a plethora of characters. It does need to be read in order with the series, but having read the rest of the universe books is not necessary, though they do add extra context.

Listening to this one was an interesting experience. When reading it, I found it to be one of the best books in the universe so far. Blake has really dialed into her world building by this point, and is really good about addressing any concerns or questions that may come up. It makes for a rich and detailed story that follows the rules the author has created. It also advances the metaplot by leaps and bounds, while also giving us a romance between two characters who have been pining for each other in the background of previous books. Both Coal and Scout are well drawn, and having both POVs means it’s easy to not only get to know, but to understand both MCs.

But listening to it gave me a very different experience than reading it. I really do enjoy Michael Dean’s overall narration, as he has a smooth voice that is really pleasant to listen to. His voice has become synonymous with these characters for me. And by now, I know to expect an inconsistency in voices that crops up, though in this book I found it more prevalent than in some of the others. I think Dean has really dialed in to the emotion of the story, and knows this world well, so the performance aspect of it is spot on. Dean handled the torture and actions scenes just as well as the romance side of things, and had a nice balance between them. However, Dean performs the story as Blake has written it, and while that’s amazing, it also pointed out issues I didn’t have before.

There were turns of phrase where for me, the cringe factor was amplified. The same with finding some of the sap more sappy. I recognize this is a personal preference, but it had me, in turns, cringing and rolling my eyes. It also highlighted some of the pacing issues I didn’t really notice before. This story is more involved than many of the others, and there are a lot of moving parts. While listening, I found that some of the slower parts, instead of giving a much needed respite from the action, dragged on a little too long. There was also an entire scene that I thought to be unnecessary, as I didn’t think it added to the overall story in much of an appreciable way.

Ultimately, as much as I do enjoy this story, and the audio version, listening to it highlighted some small problems that worked against the story. What I liked, I really liked. Coal and Scout have a great relationship, and the communication between them is wonderful to see. But there were small things throughout that, in listening, changed my opinion somewhat of the story.