Tour’s Books Blog

July 26, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Kiss of the Wolf by Morgan Hawke

  • Title: Kiss of the Wolf
  • Author: Morgan Hawke
  • Type: Adventure Romance
  • Genre: Historical Paranormal
  • Sub-genre: Fangs and Fur Urban Fantasy
  • My Grade: B  (4*)
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Where Available: Any bookstore

This very unusual book is sold as a romance, and in many ways that’s what it is, but in all fairness to most romance readers Kiss of the Wolf reads more like action adventure with romance than true romance.  It also carries a ‘Sexually Explicit’ warning and yes, there is some, but not a lot and certainly no more explicit that you’d find in a steamy historical.  Probably less.  I think this is one of the reasons it gets such mixed reviews.  Expectations are not met.  I have to admit I was frankly puzzled by it myself, but it was engrossing enough that I read on.  In many ways it reminded me of the old TV series, Wild, Wild West – just without the humor, mixed with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a dash of Jules Verne, and a some Thea Devine steam.  It has elements of traditional fantasy adventure, historical urban fantasy, and romantic suspense.

Morgan Hawke creates a fascinating world for Thorn Ferrel, a courier for the US Secret Service in the year 1876.  Thorn was once a normal human child.  She was sold to a magi (wizard) who merged her with wolf to create a werewolf.  A magical creation, she is rare. (There are many paranormal creatures in the ‘world’, but apparently no natural shifters.) Kiss of the Wolf gets off to a sizzling start as Thorn heads out on her last mission and her term of service, more like unwilling indenture, is done.  Having sailed from the US, she shifts to wolf to cross the Carpathian Mountains.  She heads for a cave to spend the day in safety, aware something very large is following her.  She winds her way in and stays in wolf form to fight better if needed.  She is surprised when a man follows her in and bites him.  But he seems unafraid and calm about the bite.

Thorn has bitten a vampire, Yuroslav.  He not just a vampire, he is also a magic user.  It isn’t until he hears her thoughts that he realizes the wolf that just bit him is really a werewolf.  In most books what follows – the initial sexual encounter – would be far too precipitous, but Thorn has much of her basic animal nature about sex and somehow, it seems realistic.  Thorn is uncomplicated and straight forwrad.  Yuroslav is a cipher in many ways and he is revealed in layers.  Both seem highly sexual beings, but this is no sex-fest and come evening the next day, Thorn is off on her assignment.  She finds her way to Colonel Ives, the man she blames for her 4 years as a ‘contract agent’ for the Secret Service.  He makes her take a return package to the US, but all hell breaks loose.  The man who took her to the Colonel, Max Rykov, is both a badly transformed werewolf and the plague beast that has been speading a kind of zombie plague through various towns.  Max shoots Thorn, grazing her with a silver bullet and Yuroslav has ‘remake’ her to save her because her human half is too well intgrated with the wolf to survive alone.

This complex world created by Hawke gets a bit overwhelming at times for those unaccustomed to complex fantasy reads.  It’s made more so by the slow unraveling of who’s who and general atmosphere of secrecy that keeps Thorn on the outside of much of this.  She is a woman, an American and completely unfamiliar with the “Penumbral Realm” ruled by Price Raphael.  The basic premise is humans cannot be trusted with magic, it goes awry too easily, so magic users and creatures that are of a magical nature, like Torn, are under the governance of the Penumbral Realm.   The plague is magical in origin, but not of the Penumbral Realm, so there is a human sorcerer out there creating magical things as weapons of war.  It is the responsibility of the those in the Penumbral Realm to find this person and stop them.  Thorn has seen him and known him a ‘Doctor’.  She is valuable and becomes a kind of bait, but she belongs to Yuroslav and he is determined to protect her. The denouement with the rogue magi is fascinating, but the reader needs to be intuitive to follow some of the events and how and why the unfold or the impact is lost.

The story is not always easy to follow, in part due to the complexity, but mostly due to the style in which it’s written, which gets difficult to follow at times.  Anyone who has read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time will be fine, but if you’re used to writers like Christine Warren, this book will make you struggle.  Certainly, neither the vampires nor the werewolves are anything like those usually found in paranormal stories, so there are no easy points of reference here.  All of these elements conspire to make Kiss of the Wolf both very original, perhaps too original for some, and hard to slip into easily.  For true romance junkies, the sex might be hot, and it’s right at the edge of what I consider ‘erotic’ romance, but I consider it  just steamy and the relationship between Thorn and Yuroslav, despite the torrid begining, does not dominate the storyline.  This is a very worthwhile read, but it cretainly isn’t for everyone.

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