Title: To Adam with Love
Author: Adrienne Wilder
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Length: Novel/67,102 words
Genre: Alternate Universe/Paranormal/M/M Romance
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Excellent paranormal romance set in previously established world, which could make it somewhat less accessible to the new readers. Angst lovers, don’t miss this one!
Blurb: Adam’s mother brought him as a child to the Gray Zone, the no man’s land between the crumbling city and the Dens where the Kin—the dragons—and Lesser-Breds—their mixed-blood offspring—live. He was different, not completely Human, and she knew fear and prejudice would drive people to do horrible things… like a father trying to kill his son. Five years later, Adam’s father is behind bars and Adam has come home to the Zone, the last place anyone would expect innocence, loyalty, and devotion, to complete his becoming Lesser-Bred and find his best friend and only love, Ean.
But Ean has a life of his own. He’s always wanted to belong to Batu, the Male Kin who has watched over him since childhood, but now Ean’s caught in a deadly trap of biology and vengeance: he isn’t enough to feed his beloved Adam during the dangerous transformation, and Kin won’t allow an emotional bond in their midst. Years ago Ean lost Adam after failing to keep him safe. Now that Adam is back, will a simple feeling give Ean the strength to defy everything he’s ever known and keep them together?
Review: In the beginning, I have to be honest and say that the books focused on shifters or, simply, other species do not hold a very high place in my reading universe and I do not go out of my way to seek them. There are two main reasons for that: the abundance of clichés that became quite tedious and, often, lack of human element or, better said, relevance to me as a person and a human being. That said, To Adam with Love is a true original among these books, an emotional journey of two young men to find their place in a very cruel world.
The book is set in the world of the Grey Zone that I have become familiar with by reading Wilder’s serialized novella Darwin’s Theory. While it is not necessary for you to read it, it will help you to completely appreciate the complexity of the world and, especially, understand the final chapters of this novel. I’m also highly recommending it, because Darwin, the narrator, is another unexpected gem in this genre. The author did provide the Glossary at the beginning of this novel to explain the used terms and their meaning (the full Glossary can be found on the author’s site).
In this alternate universe, the Kin (dragons) and humans live next to each other. The mixing of the breeds isn’t encouraged, but the offspring – Lesser-Breds – exist and they can either fit in the human world or, more commonly, live in the Grey Zone, a place between the city of Atlanta and Dens, where most of the full-blooded dragons live.
Adam Schroeder was brought to the Grey Zone by his mother after his father had tried to kill him, because he knew Adam would eventually become a Lesser-Bred. Adam befriended Ean, a human boy brought up by the dragons, but he was snatched away from that life when his father found them. Now, five years later, Adam is back because he’s on the verge of becoming, a change that will make him a Lesser-Bred.
The novel has two parallel story lines: the flashbacks of Adam’s and Ean’s childhood and the present events. The strength of this story lies in its protagonists and their unusual dichotomy. Adam will become a Lesser-Bred, yet he was brought up as a human and he doesn’t understand the implications of his impeding change. He was terribly hurt and he needs friendship. He finds the stability in Ean’s unflinching loyalty and promised future. But, he is also afraid and desires normalcy, which is why he is attracted to Brian, another human boy who lives outside of the Zone. At the same time, Ean is fully human, but he was brought up by the dragons, intelligent beings driven nonetheless by their need for food (blood, flesh or metaphysical energy). They appear to have no human feelings, so Ean does not understand human concepts like love. He doesn’t know how to read or write and his greatest ambition is to belong to Batu, the Male Kin, and be allowed to keep Adam as well. Although he is sexually active, he is innocent and inexperienced in human interactions. This leads to some very funny, but also very touching moments, especially when Ean tries to learn things that will make Adam happy. Adam’s dilemmas and fears were understandable and palpable, but it is Ean who made this book special to me. The growing attraction between the boys was touching and their struggles as young men were heart-wrenching and beautifully written. I found myself in tears more than once. There were moments when I simply couldn’t see how they could possibly stay together or survive.
What also sets this book apart from other similar stories is otherness of the Kin. There is nothing human about these creatures although they have human forms as well. They are made – not born, metaphysical rather than physical beings, their hierarchy is based on dominance and submission, they are driven by instincts rather than emotions, human-like morals play no part in their society, etc. They are predators and theirs is a cruel world, especially for someone like Ean who is just learning what being human really means. Ean learns about love from a terribly disfigured Lesser-Bred rather than perfectly beautiful Kin in a very telling and touching scene.
The complete accessibility of the novel or lack thereof to the readers previously unfamiliar with this world is the biggest problem of the book and the main reason why the book wasn’t rated (much) higher like the writing and characters deserved. I feel that new readers will not be able to fully understand the complexity of the world and the dragons’ social structure and, therefore, appreciate Adam’s and Ean’s journey or the implications of Batu’s final decision. Also, if you haven’t read the previous works and are not planning to, be warned: Adam didn’t receive much needed assistance during the change and the consequences were dire and quite horrible. If you are easily grossed out or scared, proceed with caution. My second complaint is the amount of sex in the book: while the sex was hot and there was a valid reason for it, I felt the author could have made the point with fewer scenes.
To Adam with Love is imaginative, emotional, engrossing read and, in spite of my complaints, I wholeheartedly recommend you to pick it up and discover the world of the Kin and Grey Zone. It is exceptionally well-written with characters so memorable that I can’t help wishing for another story of Adam and Ean. I would like to see how they are faring in their new life. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading other books by this author and, especially, in this series.