This is urban fantasy set in the world of the Sazi. Ms. Clamp and C.T. Adams have been writing of the Sazi since 2006 but this book is the beginning of a new trilogy with new characters so it stands quite well on its own. The Sazi are shape-shifters all kinds of shape-shifters. There are, of course, wolves but also large cats of all species, bears, snakes, owls of all species and probably more that don’t appear in this story. Without the rich background of the preceding novels, I may not have the complete picture but I did understand that there are two kinds of shifters: alphas and omegas. Alphas have more magical power than Omegas and, significantly, are able to shift their form at will. Omegas have to wait for a full moon and even then are usually unable to fully shift without the magical help of an alpha. Alphas are in complete control of their form and retain their humanity while shifted. Omegas, on the other hand, usually shift leaving the animal in control and must be either protected and guided, or restrained for three days a month. At an earlier time, all shifters were Alphas and bred true; but the bloodlines became diluted when humans were forcibly ‘turned’. The process to ‘turn’ humans into shifters in order to increase the population is pretty horrible: painful, terrifying and often fatal. I don’t know if the authors have ever presented a more positive aspect of turning a human in an earlier story.
This story takes place at Luna Lake a sanctuary for all shifters to live together in harmony. Claire Sanchez, a wolf shifter from Texas, has just recently been accepted as a Wolven Agent and this town is her first solo assignment. The Wolven are the enforcement arm of the shifter society’s leaders. There have been confusing and suspicious reports coming out of Luna Lake and the Council wants to know what’s going on. Claire’s job is to quietly investigate while becoming the new school teacher. But there’s a lot getting in her way…
As she arrives in town, her car is attacked by a very large and very aggressive something and that is the first weird thing Claire can’t identify by sight or smell what attacked her. And the town is in an uproar over two missing children but it just gets weirder after that. Claire discovers that Luna Lake has a long history of missing children…but no one remembers them. And after a while, people start forgetting to continue searching for the two most recent kidnappings. Even their mother seems to forget them from time to time, or imagines them visiting a distant relative. Claire seems immune as does a local policeman, Alex, who is also a Wolven agent. Claire has an unexpected reaction to Alex, one that confuses and amazes her and is tending to get in the way of doing their jobs.
Another main character is Rachel, the town’s Omega and an owl-shifter. The town holds a competition to determine the hierarchy and the weakest members are the Omegas whose job it is to do all the shit jobs in town. This is actually necessary as they can’t actually hire from outside the town and there aren’t enough people to do all the community jobs. But the role of the Omegas in this town is quite a bit rougher than Claire ever imagined and she starts to wonder if the abuse the Omegas suffer is somehow related to the missing children. And despite her not-inconsiderable abilities, Claire ends up as the town’s newest Omega and she gets an upfront and personal view of exactly how abusive the lead Alpha is willing to be. But it also gives her an insight into the darker history of the town; one of which the Council doesn’t seem to be aware. The story does have a small handful of recurring characters who were minor in earlier stories.
So the synopsis is pretty exciting and the plot is pretty-well-constructed. The characters are very relatable and interesting. But I have to admit this is not my cup ‘o tea. The plot has some large holes that I have a little trouble accepting. For example, there was never a satisfactory explanation of the attack on Claire’s car at the beginning; it didn’t fit into the bad guy’s story or have a raison d’etre. The children suffered horrific sexual abuse and yet it was glossed over for the sake of the plot and it really didn’t make sense that the children would be sexually abused while the Omegas who suffered every other indignity and physical abuse would remain relatively unscathed. The plot ultimately resolved the origin of the conflict which was acceptable but I feel that the author’s ultimate goal was actually to create sexual tension and then release it in a spectacular fashion. Fortunately, the sex scenes were few and relatively brief but they were there. And I never did find a reason for the title.
For paranormal romance, this was a bit better than a lot I’ve read. And the author was astute enough to pepper the story with some small mysteries that remain unsolved…for now. So now I’m on to the second in this trilogy stay tuned. ~~ Catherine Book
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