Title: Stone the Crows
Series: Wolf Winter: Book Two
Author: TA Moore
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 240 Pages
Category: Urban Fantasy, Shifters
At a Glance: In short, not my cup of tea. So, what is the book and why a high star rating? Well, it’s a damn good book. It’s well written with strong characters, good pacing, compelling plot and realistic world building.
Reviewed By: Jenn
Blurb: When the Winter arrives, the Wolves will come down over the walls and eat little boys in their beds.
Doctor Nicholas Blake might still be afraid of the dark, but the monsters his grandmother tormented him with as a child aren’t real.
Or so he thought…until the sea freezes, the country grinds to a halt under the snow, and he finds a half-dead man bleeding out while a dead woman watches. Now his nightmares impinge on his waking life, and the only one who knows what’s going on is his unexpected patient.
For Gregor it’s simple. The treacherous prophets mutilated him and stole his brother Jack, and he’s going to kill them for it. Without his wolf, it might be difficult, but he’ll be damned if anyone else gets to kill Jack—even if he has to enlist the help of his distractingly attractive, but very human, doctor.
Except maybe the prophets want something worse than death, and maybe Nick is less human than Gregor believes. As the dead gather and the old stories come true, the two men will need each other if they’re going to rescue Jack and stop the prophets’ plan to loose something more terrible than the wolf winter.
Review: This book isn’t a happily ever after. I found it incredibly bleak, the dark undertone pervasive and depressing. It’s not hopeful or a battle of good vs evil; unless your definition of good is just ‘not evil’. In short, not my cup of tea. So, what is the book and why a high star rating? Well, it’s a damn good book. It’s well written with strong characters, good pacing, compelling plot and realistic world building. In short it loses half a star simply because it’s not my cup of tea and the other half for the ending, which I’ll get to.
I’ll start out by saying this is part of a series, and I don’t believe it can be read as a standalone. I did and felt that I was missing out on a lot of information that, while the author doesn’t quite assume you know, perhaps didn’t elaborate on so as not to bore the returning reader, but will leave the new ones scratching their heads.
Since I can’t talk too much about how well written it is, barring the fact that it is expertly crafted wordsmithing, we’ll go straight to characters. The main protagonists are layered and deep and they reveal themselves over time. This is particularly impressive to me as Gregor, the Wolf, presents himself and views himself in a one-dimensional form. He is the Wolf, Numitor’s heir. So, to present that kind of person, who can’t see beyond their title or job or one particular skill, as deep as any other is incredibly impressive. The other main protagonist, Nick, is a deeper mystery and draws you into his own fears of insanity, a questioning that follows you through most of the book.
The plot is clear from the outset: find Gregor’s brother and his mate and kill the people who attacked him. And yet with a clear line in front of them, the author weaves some interesting twists and turns that almost had me not wanting to put the book down. Which might not seem like a compliment until I re-iterate how I dislike bleak books. I want a happily ever after, or hope that things can get better after this big obstacle. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I’d have put the book down as did-not-finish and not-my-taste. To have all that and still make it something of a page turner is a huge compliment.
The world building is strong, consistent, and layered over everything like the snow featured so strongly in the book. Even before we are introduced to the Wild of this world, it’s presence is felt and each step Nick takes into realising this world is real and not the insanity he thought, brings it closer to the surface. Its strength reached out to me and nearly had me on eBay to get an iron horseshoe for above my door and an iron nail for my handbag (because, let’s face it, keeping track of the nail is a lot easier in a handbag than when transferring it from the traditional pocket to pocket every day).
All of this, combined, makes for a fantastic story. I’m sure some of you have noticed the one element that I haven’t mentioned is romance, and while our protagonists get together, there isn’t a romance. There’s no courtship and neither can explain the attraction, nor do they seem to particularly want it. Despite that there is chemistry between them that makes the one erotic scene work, as well as the begrudging relationship that forms between them. In many ways, even, this fits with the tone of the book, as it’s a romantic relationship pared down into something sharp by the cold, harsh winter in the story.
Which leads it to the ending, something that right up until the last chapter and epilogue or so is going, if not quite as expected, certainly to the overall tone and theme of bleakness and darkness pervasive in the entire story. Somehow at the last chapter, and even more so, the epilogue, these elements do a 180 degree turn and all is good and well, and there’s that happily ever after that was never promised or mentioned or even hinted at. As a twist it certainly is shocking, but it doesn’t suit the overall tone the book had set up. I think the final chapter could have stood by itself, if the epilogue didn’t cap the story off in a sweetness that was out of place. As much as I want my books to have that happily ever after, this particular one didn’t fit with the story we had been told.
You can buy Stone the Crows here:
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