Reviewed by Helyce
Rifter leads a small pack of Dire wolves, the last known to exist. To their knowledge, there are only six of them left and they have been tasked with not only keeping the humans safe from the weres, weretrappers, and witches, but to do so without revealing themselves. Rifter and his brother wolves have been around for centuries. They are immortal, each with a special gift. Individually they are incredibly strong; together they are even more so.
Gwen is a woman whose young life has already been touched by so much tragedy. She never knew her father, her mother died when she was ten years old and the aunt and uncle who raised her after that were killed in a fire when she was just 17. Feeling like everyone she cared about and loved seemed to perish, she’s been on her own since that time. If that wasn’t enough, she’s sick. Plagued by seizures, she knows that she doesn’t have much time left and she’s accepted that. She just wants to go to work and do her job until she can’t anymore. Unfortunately, that time is here.
When Rifter decides to go to the bar that night, he’s looking for one thing. Sex. Any willing female were will do, but as he enters the bar, he’s inexplicably drawn to the pretty little blonde sitting at the bar doing shots. She’s human, not what he needs, but he approaches her anyway. Gwen felt Rifter enter the bar and her body answered his call though she didn’t know why. She was drawn to him as well, and she decided then and there that she was taking him home tonight.
Rifter and Gwen’s seemingly coincidental meeting is far from that, in fact it was fated. For centuries, Dires believed they were the last of their kind and with no female Dires left, destined to live their immortal lives without a mate. It’s been that way for so long; they’ve accepted it as fact. But Rifter senses something different in Gwen and while he doesn’t know what it is, he finds he can barely hold himself back; his need to take her and possess her in every way possible is overwhelming. Unfortunately, Gwen has a seizure and Rifter’s extreme lust immediately changes to feelings of protection and comfort. As he soothes her, she falls asleep and he uses his gift of dream walking to enter her dream and make sure she’s ok. But the dream he walks into is far from comforting, as he finds himself walking through the war torn remains of the fall of his kind.
Rifter’s ability to dream walk is both a gift and a curse and lately it’s been more the latter. So much has happened and his dreams are getting more frightening to the point where he doesn’t want to sleep. It’s certainly gotten worse since he and Rogue escaped capture by weretrappers. They’ve been the Dire’s biggest threat for as long as he can remember. And now, they have a very powerful witch, Seb, working with them. They are building an army and their goal is to not only take out the Dire wolves, but take over the human race. They are playing with dark magic that they don’t fully understand and the risk of exposure becomes greater when the Dire wolves learn exactly how special Gwen really is.
When Gwen is nearly captured by the weretrappers, Rifter breaks his own rules by bringing a human back to the compound. He’s confused about his feelings, never expected to feel anything like this especially for a human. He just knows he must protect her; that for some reason his inner wolf has decided that she is his and his urge to mate her is very strong. But he can’t do it; he knows she will not survive a coupling with him. His plan is to keep her safe and comfortable during her last days.
While this war is simmering in the background, we learn that Gwen is half Dire, half human. Her father, Harm, is a Dire wolf who would have been King following Jameson, but chose give it up and live among the humans. Harm, short for Harmony, is all about the music and has for years toured around the world with his band, going into hiding for periods of time and coming out years later, reinventing his persona, but continuing to enjoy much success in the human world. It is during one of his sabbaticals that he meets Gwen’s mom and she gets pregnant. For a while, Harm was able to keep Gwen and her mother safe on his own, but when the witches realize that a Dire female exists and how special she is, Harm makes a deal with the witches that the Dire wolves will never be able to forgive him for.
To say this book was overwhelming would be an understatement. As a first book in a series, I totally understand the need to build the world, introduce the characters and set up the conflict. But half way through this book, which is 378 pages, I still didn’t totally understand where the story was headed. There is a lot of repetitiveness as the author explains the differences between the Dire wolves and the weres. We get some history that explains that the original Dires go as far back as the Vikings; in fact are descended of them (I think) and that they fought alongside them. We learn that the king at that time, Jameson, thought he was “all that” and decided not to heed the warnings of the Elders and attempted to take over the humans of that time. This leads to the Dire wolves extinction EXCEPT for the few young wolves that were away from their packs as part of their Running; a time where they lived among humans in order to learn how to blend in. They each return to find their villages decimated and then find out that they are now immortal and must keep the humans safe. At some point following this, the weres appear; though I don’t honestly know how or why. I do know that they are a completely separate species from the Dires who are bigger, stronger and have gifts that they are born with. They have packs and their own king. While similar, the Dires apparently cannot find their mates with the weres, though they can have sex with them.
Additionally, we are introduced to the weretrappers; humans who have formed alliances with witches and are bringing forth demons from beyond using black magic in order to build an army to fight against the Dires and the weres who follow them. If that wasn’t enough, they are trying to raise long dead Dire wolf spirits to fortify their army.
So this is what I deduced: the Dire wolves, while very small in number, are now at war with the weretrappers who ultimately hope to take over and enslave other humans by using black magic to build an army of bespelled weres and by raising Dire spirits for the nothing more than wanting power over all. I expect that the Dires will fight the good fight in future books while also finding their not supposed to exist female Dire mates.
If anything kept me reading, though, it would have to be the interactions between the Dire wolves themselves. In addition to Rifter, we have Vice, Jinx, Rogue, Harm and Stray. Their commitment and loyalty to each other and their cause really comes through. While they refer to each other as brothers, the only two related by blood are Jinx and Rogue. Rogue remains in a state of suspended animation of sorts since he escaped capture by the weretrappers which is tearing up all the Dires, as they continually try to reach him and bring him out of his coma like state. Their bond to each other is strong.
I am a big fan of Stephanie Tyler’s romantic suspense books and I also very much enjoyed her paranormal series written under the name Sydney Croft (she wrote with Larissa Ione). So the thought of reading about Harley riding, biker type, bad boy werewolves was a no brainer for me. Sadly, the world building and setting up the characters was so overwhelming, it took too much focus away from the budding and very unique relationship between Rifter and Gwen which I would have like to have seen explored more. It definitely took away from my enjoyment of the book as I continually tried to keep everything straight in my head and not suffer from information overload. I have to admit that I’m quite intrigued with the Dire wolves themselves and would like to get to know them better. I’m willing to give book two a try, with the hope that since the world is sufficiently built, there will be more focus on the Dires, their gifts and their true purpose.