I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while. In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve known Chris for a more than a few years now, and I remember the draft of this book coming through. It was a whole lot of fun then, and with a bit of polishing to get it up to publishing standard, it’s maintained the fast-paced, anti-heroic core (with a little laconic charm thrown in) that grabbed my attention back then. But before I delve too deep – the blurb!
When hybrid werewolf Kyle Smithson saves the life of a young human woman, he has no idea what trouble his actions are about to cause. He also has no idea the wife he buried centuries ago isn’t dead, but now a vampire embroiled in an escalating turf war. With an ancient promise to keep and his personal stakes growing by the hour, Kyle wants nothing more than to get out alive, but caught between a woman he once loved and the woman he’s trying to help, he’s about to have the fight of his life.
One thing that is clear right from the start, is that this is no star-crossed lovers, twinkle-in-the-moonlight vampire/werewolf tale. Set in Canberra and leveraging off some real-world local rivalries (though much more friendly in the real), the story follows Kyle as he gets caught between two rival factions, along with a few individuals trying to work the escalating conflict for their own agenda. In weaving all these stories together, there’s an element of chaotic energy that I loved, but still a feeling that all of it was coming towards an inevitable conflict. Unsurprisingly from the author who recently put together a bunch of workbooks for melding character and structure, the narratives, while a little chaotic, never felt like they were out of the author’s control or deviating wildly towards an unknown end. As a single story, it works nicely as a standalone while fitting nicely into the larger Veil of the Gods world that Chris is constructing.
In short, the story is fun, dark at times, and has that great aspect of being able to be enjoyed either by itself as part of the larger collection. Characters like Rake, quietly getting in everyone’s way and doing his best to squash any chances of peace, and Taenorah fighting something of a private battle with very pertinent outward impact ensured the story wasn’t so simple as to let the reader confidently guess the outcome; but neither was it so complex that it needs an encyclopaedia worth of detail to understand. Dialogue could perhaps have done with a little less sass (I know, I’m kicking myself for saying that too), and at times there was a little over-explaining of the world, but nothing that really distracted from or took away from the narrative.
It was, for me, an easy read, and fulfilled all the expectations I had from the earlier draft.
Four Moonstars for this one.