Jefford (Night Stalker, 2017) explores a harsh, mesmerizing post-apocalyptic world in this paranormal-romance novel, the first in a series.
When sickness wiped out most of human civilization nearly three decades ago, the city-dwelling, werewolflike wolf shifters, who’d mixed and mingled with humans, rejoined their pure-blood brethren in the wild. As the last pure-blood in the Wolf Hollow pack, Sasha is ceaselessly pressured to strengthen the pack by mating with another pure-blood, whatever her own feelings may be. Tabor, meanwhile, stands at the lowest end of the pack hierarchy; he’s half-wizard and thus feared and derided by the other wolves. Of course, there are many worries facing the pack, from human poachers to monstrous creatures called “vulhena,” but the biggest danger may be a matter of the heart. Sasha begins to balk at the weight of duty, the pain of loss, and the hypocrisy of the elders, while Tabor realizes that Sasha may actually see him for who he is, unlike the status-obsessed bigots. But in a harsh world, their connection will cause more trouble than they could imagine. The characters are well-drawn and sympathetic, and the plot moves at a quick pace with plenty of complex worldbuilding. The appearance of members of other packs; Sasha’s crush on her patrol partner, Aden; and her memories of her lost love, Wolfrik, among other things, add to the growing tension. The prose is strong throughout, and the characters have distinct voices as the story switches between them. The only real downside is that the prose sometimes lingers too much on characters’ bodies, particularly during acts of passion—although this fact won’t detract from many readers’ enjoyment: “When he removed his shirt and displayed his solid pecs, Sasha’s throat went dry. He had the best-looking abs of any shifter in Wolf Hollow.”
A clever romance with strong characters and an intriguing fictional world.