Author: Xavier Axelson
Publisher: Fireborn Publishing
Buy link: (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Paranormal
Length: 93 pp/19371 words
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sammy

Review Summary: A heartbreaking story of the unconditional love of one man for his daughter, and how the love of another man helped him survive terrible loss.

Blurb: When Pryor’s daughter Lily is taken by a wolf, Pryor is convinced she has turned into the creature he sees lurking in his woods. He swears she promises to return to him. But is it his despair and desperation making him see things or is there something more lurking in the shadows of the forest? When he meets Ned, a silversmith who helps him with a plan to bring his daughter back into his life, he begins to live again. But can his newfound love help ease the horror that may be waiting? What if the ultimate horror isn’t when Lily was taken but it’s when Lily returns and he realizes his nightmare has only just begun…

Review: Pryor sits on the deck and watches the woods every day. He waits for that one fleeting glimpse of a young white wolf. In that terrible and breathtakingly painful moment when their eyes meet, he catches a brief glimpse of a lost soul…the soul of his daughter, Lily.

With heartbreaking detail, Lily by Xavier Axelson, tells the story of a man who in the blink of an eye loses the one most precious thing in his entire existence, his young daughter. From a series of flashbacks juxtaposed with the present day, we watch the story of Pryor’s life unfold. The details are not complete; in fact, much of this story is left undone as if the author wanted to impart only those elements that he felt were truly needed to make sense of the situation. However, just enough detail is given for the full horrifying effect of Pryor’s tortured existence to be understood.

On a typical afternoon, Lily, Pryor’s only child, is playing in the back yard. Their home sits on the edge of a deep wood. One moment Lily is there, the next she is gone, pulled into the wood by a wolf. While it is never fully explained why or how Lily is taken, it is quite clear from the onset of this story that Pryor suspects she is now the white wolf that prowls the edge of his property almost every evening.  She has become a changeling, or a werewolf, he suspects, although he shares this belief with no one until he meets Ned. Ned, a retired army veteran, works as a silversmith in the local jewelry shop. Pryor, driven by the need to have something tangible to remember Lily by, goes to the shop to have a piece of jewelry made.

The two men make an immediate connection. Although the story dances around whether or not these two men are outright gay or merely bisexual it is very clear on their instant attraction. For the first time since Lily’s change, Pryor feels something akin to love, which in turn becomes hope.

Now the two men join forces to see if, by the wearing of the silver necklace Ned has fashioned, Lily can be forced to remain in human form. While the story details are once again sketchy, we are privy to the fact that Lily is able to return to human form only one day a year, Father’s Day. We then witness the vain attempts by Pryor and Ned to leash the beast that has taken over Lily’s soul, to no avail. The end of this little tale is bittersweet and decidedly gut-wrenching.

There were so many pieces of this story that played out like a beautiful symphony. The encounters, both sexual and non between Ned and Pryor as they explored the possibility of loving one another. Pryor’s determination to hold onto the humanity of his daughter despite all evidence supporting the fact that indeed the better part of her was a feral beast, unpredictable and wild. The small details of a life that was being lived on the edge of reason, such as Pryor’s penchant for holding vigil each evening in the hopes of seeing the creature his daughter had become emerge from the woods.

Unfortunately it is just these same pieces that became the core of my main criticism of this work; that the reader is left yearning for more…a clearer understanding of why Pryor’s wife left him; of why Lily was taken; of how Ned could believe the fantastical story of Lily’s changed form with such ease. So many questions were left unanswered that they began to overshadow the pleasure of the reading.

Indeed, the 3.5 star for this novel stems from the frustration I felt when the author would begin to lead us right to the cusp of a deeper look at the back story that had led us to a certain point in the novella only to veer off to delve into another memory.

However, despite these minor irritations, the novella was truly a moving story of unconditional and selfless love. A love that while bittersweet, remained hopeful and allowed for life to go on and new love to grow.


  • Thank you! BTW I just noticed a funny typo/slip in my comment: substituting “feel” for “fill.” I guess my feelings were engaged. 😉

  • Sammy, you’ve conveyed so well some of the ambivalence I’ve felt about this book. “Lily” has haunted be since I read it about a week ago. I was troubled by being unusually unsure how I feel about it. If this makes any sense, I prefer reading “paranormal” stories to “horror” stories. The difference to me is that in horror the paranormal forces tend to be beyond our comprehension and/or will win out, and in a paranormal, there’s some sense that the protagonists (whether human or paranormal themselves) have a chance to come out on top.

    I like the two men very much, especially how distinctly Ned is drawn just by his way of speaking. But I was also bothered by what is left out. This is probably the most poetic “horror” story (again by my categorization only) I’ve read. And I found myself thinking that Axelson crafted this with some of the sensibilities of writing poetry, choosing exactly the right words and phrases, editing out the superfluous, etc. But I’m still debating how I feel about his choices. For example, I wasn’t bothered by not having details about the mom/wife’s abandonment (I could feel that in with a couple of plausibilities based on what was given), but it really bothered me not having a clearer idea of Lily’s age. How odd is that?

    A memorable story nonetheless. And a very nice job describing it! (Sorry for the length of this. Your review and this book gave me a lot to think about.)

    • Karen, I could not agree more about the two men and the clear characterization that Mr. Axelson describes. I do love the fact that this is so very well written–just remarkably lush in it’s language! All the questions simply make me want to read another of his works to see if he is developing as a writer–a thing I am fairly sure might be taking place! He is too adept at the written word to fall off in quality, I think!

      Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  • Lovely review Sammy, I’m going to check this one out to see if I like the sound of it………ooh bunnies I almost missed them! 🙂

  • Sammy

    Xavier Axelson asked me to post this comment since he’s tried a couple of times and for some reason WordPress wouldn’t accept his comment.

    thanks so much Sammy for the kind and generous review

    Xavier Axelson

  • Thank you Sammy for the beatiful and pleasure to read review. I am pretty sure that the book is not for me, but I will keep an eye out for another works by this author, I definitely want to experience his writing.

  • I really loved this one – it’s been the best thing I’ve read for ages and I can thoroughly recommend it! 🙂 I think I liked the fact that some things were left in mystery, but I understand how others would be frustrated by that.

    Still, it’s a literary and very class act, and I hope there’ll be more of these sorts of stories in the gay fiction world!


    • Anne, thanks for your comment. While I agree that this was a very well written and lyrical novella, the gaps were just a few too many for the novella to be wholly cohesive. But this author is DEFINITELY worth a second and third glance! 🙂

  • Sammy

    A truly lovely review of what seems to be a wonderfully written book, except for a few omissions. What a pity the author didn’t delve more deeply into Lily’s disappearance and why, as well as Pryor’s grief. I will definitely read the story of Pryor and Ned and Lily’s presumed fate.

    Thank you for this emotional review. 🙂


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A mature woman, gracefully growing older, who lives with 12 cats and talks to imaginary people--had ya going there for a minute didn't I? I am an avid lover of all things m/m who delights in occasionally teasing Wave!
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