Author: T.J. Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 20, 2016
Genre(s): Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 400
Reviewed by: Vallie
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.
Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. The little boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the little boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the little boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.
Ox was seventeen when he found out the little boy’s secret and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.
Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.
It’s been four years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.
**The shifter trope has been officially Klunified!**
It is no secret that TJ Klune is my absolute favourite author and when I realised he was dabbling with a shifter romance? Blown away, I was, blown away. And boy did the book deliver. TJ Klune has added his special brand of Kluneism to this book and it was magic!
I loved what TJ did here with the storytelling in terms of passage of time. We meet the main characters as kids –not at the same timeframe, and then revisit them at different ages. And the transitions are not choppy at all, because we get such lyrical prose while learning about them and what they go through at each stage of their lives, that it feels natural to then move on to the next one.
Ox is a quiet kid who has such low expectations of himself and of what life can give him, that he does not dare hope or even imagine the extraordinary. He is starved for love and affection. He doesn’t say much but when he speaks, he says it all. TJ is very skilled at writing rambly, out there characters. Ox is not like that and yet we get to know him inside and out even with the little he speaks. This quiet boy grows up to be someone with such inner strength that you can’t help but look at him as a hero. And he is, in so many ways. I think the story explores the idea of heroism very well. Ox fits the mythology of a hero to a T, with flawed humanity and mistakes added to the mix, because no hero is ever perfect. And of course, the most important ingredient of all –heroes don’t think, they act. Ox loves. He loves so very deeply and he is willing to do everything, literally everything to protect his loved ones –and not in the hypothetical, it’s-never-actually-going-to-happen kind of way. His willingness to sacrifice is tested, time and time again. And he passes every test. He becomes a true badass in the course of the book. Ox is probably my favourite character TJ has ever written, because he is the epitome of what kindness and love should be.
And Joe. Gawd, Joe reminded me of The Kid, from BOATK. I adored the little ball of energy. His soul was so pure and even though Joe had seen and lived way more than any 10 year old should ever have to, he took one look at 16 year old Ox and fell in love. And the theme here is destiny. It’s standard practice to see themes of fate and mates play out in shifter romance. This book excelled in it. I felt it, in my gut, that when I saw 10 year-old Joe climb Ox like a tree trying to find where the wonderful smell was coming from, that I was in for an epic romance. Everything unravelled at the perfect pace in a perfect way. There is a big difference between expecting something to happen and not being able to read fast enough until you get there, and something being predictable, and just waiting for it to happen. There was no predictability here. Joe and Ox grew up and while Joe always knew where things would go between them, Ox was completely blindsided. When Ox’s feelings changed to include lust and wanting, it was like an explosion of feelings all around. Romance at its finest folks.
I am not going to talk about the plot because it’s so worth experiencing it with no spoilers. There is pain, so much freaking pain, for such a big part of the book. This story brings hurt/comfort to a whole different level. But there is redemption and when the dust settles, that epic love waiting to be fully realised shines through and through. The characters evolve over the years and when they come together again as fully fledged adults, they are respectively different people. I love this about Tj’s writing. A 400 page book can easily stagnate but this one didn’t. There were plot twists, fantastic character development, and writing that stabs you in the heart both from sadness and from happiness.
But, because this is a Klune book after all, it’s not all about the sad. The side characters were amazing in their own right –and so many of them too! They all became a family, an unconventional one, sure, even within this supernatural universe they were placed in. They went through hell and fire, all of them, through conflict and resolution, and came out stronger than ever. And, they provided some much-needed comic relief. Trust TJ Klune to write a super angsty shifter romance and then turn it on its ass and make fun of it, I swear to god. Case in point:
“‘And here comes the part where really attractive people get naked,’ Rico said. ‘And most of them are related. Which isn’t weird. At all.’”
“‘You could have gone dark side,’ Tanner said.
‘Like full-on Darth Gordo,’ Chris said. Gordo put his face in his hands. ‘I told you guys, I’m a witch. I’m not a Jedi.’
‘Um, excuse me,’ Rico said. ‘Can you or can you not shoot Force lightning from your fingertips.’
‘It’s not Force –’
‘We rest our case,’ Tanner said quite loudly.”
Yeah. So expect to be floored, gutted, and finally put back together when reading this book. And oh, if you’re wondering about growly possessive apha sex? YES! It’s there! I was so pleasantly surprised at that but you will not be left wanting.
I hope this becomes a series because there is plot left to explore and characters that seem to share this destiny-like magnetism that Joe and Ox did. Please please please TJ! I’m not above begging for this one.
You need to read this. Don’t be scared. It’ll hurt like fuck but you’ll be all the better for it afterward.