Title: Stag and the Ash
Series: The Rowan Harbor Cycle: Book Five
Author: Sam Burns
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 158 Pages
Category: Fantasy, Paranormal
At a Glance: Jesse and Sean have quite a journey in this next installment, and I particularly love the slow buildup of the overall plot while watching as the characters and their relationships grow with each book.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: Jesse Hunter is finally trying to be an adult, but still feels like an act. His place on the town council is a sham. He’s rarely called on to do anything. His boyfriend is grieving the loss of his mother, and while everyone seems to think he’s doing a great job caring for Sean, Jesse feels like he’s more of a distraction than a real help.
March is shaping up to be a bad month. First, random chance leads him to the realization that the town’s recent trouble is his fault. Then new werewolves come into town, and it turns out they’re also Jesse’s responsibility. He feels like he may be at his breaking point, and he doesn’t want to drag his friends and loved ones down with him. But how will he handle it alone?
Review: I have had the pleasure of reviewing each of the books released in this series, and I haven’t been disappointed. Now, in book five, we are back into the second installment of Jesse and Sean’s story, although at this juncture, I feel it really should be described as Jesse’s story. Though there is more Sean than when their relationship began in Wolf and the Holly, the focus remains on Jesse. This time he is facing a threat he feels is his fault for bringing upon Rowan Harbor, while being there and trying to help Sean come to terms with his loss.
I really enjoy the slow buildup of the overall plot. Not much is given away in each new book, just enough to whet the appetite and let the reader (and the main characters) know there is something big on the horizon, and it is something that they will have to face or there will be a dire outcome. As with the other books, this one has Jesse facing a threat which leads to a conclusion but adds to the overall mystery. Stag and the Ash gives yet another clue as to the mysterious villain, and how certain other events were orchestrated in prior books in this series, but not enough to really understand who or why.
Though not fast-paced in divulging the overall plot arc, each book flows effortlessly, dragging me in and keeping me glued to the page. Told from Jesse’s perspective, we follow him as he navigates his new responsibilities and instincts as the town’s Alpha and protector. He is efficient and great in his role, yet he doesn’t see it. His internal dialogue shows his insecurities and how he thought he has tried to move on from his past, he still feels inadequate and that he is stumbling through it all.
His relationship with Sean is established, but there are still roadblocks between them that he has no clue how to handle. Sean’s grief has taken its toll on him, and his newly surfaced powers make him fearful of being in public. Jesse wants to help but doesn’t know how.
When three young werewolves enter town, with grief on their shoulders and hunger gnawing at their bellies, Jesse’s Alpha instincts kick in and he can’t turn a blind eye to them. Taking them in and helping them seems a no-brainer, but with a recent threat to the town discovered, he also knows it can’t be coincidence. Or can it? He doesn’t want to put the town at risk, but he also can’t be the type of person who turns away those so obviously in need. In the end, he decides to help them because they need it, and will keep an eye on them because he can’t overlook the threat to the town and the coincidence of their arrival.
Jesse comes off as brash to his friends, but he truly has a tender, caring heart. His truthfulness with the young werewolves was refreshing. He frequently compares himself to Devon and his mother and seems to feel he falls short when his strengths just differ. He tends to take on responsibility for other people’s actions and feels guilt for what others have done or things he could not have prevented. He fears what others will think of him or that he will lose them and blame him, so he lets all his feelings tear him up inside. But within the pages of this story, he finally learns what it means to be a part of the pack and that he doesn’t have to be a lone wolf, taking everything on himself. Though the path to get there has a few stumbling blocks along the way.
Though there is more of Sean in this second installment of their story, and their relationship is more solidified to me, Sean is still not quite what I consider to be a main character. He is Jesse’s partner, and Jesse obviously adores him, but he has yet to quite reach the level of connection as Wade—Devon’s partner—has for me, and I am still not sure what his part in the upcoming threat may be if he has a distinct role at all. That is starting to be okay with me, though. It was something that I struggled with in their last book (and also Fletcher’s book, with his romantic interest), but I’m beginning to see this series as paranormal/urban fantasy with romantic sub-plots rather than the paranormal romance I thought it would originally become. The romantic elements are there, they just aren’t necessarily the main focus, and often have a purpose, such as being a catalyst for the changes in the main characters and an anchor for them. If you are a reader who prefers lots of scenes that heat up the page with sexy times, you won’t get it here. Since the romance isn’t the focus in these books, there are very few steamy scenes, and even less with Jesse and Sean. Surprisingly, considering Sean’s supernatural genetics. There is only one mildly intimate moment shown on page, and that was to show progression of the relationship and plot more than anything else.
The one thing I did miss in this book was Oak; there wasn’t nearly enough of my favorite Dryad. I have grown really fond of them, and their uniqueness and wisdom, the innocence with maturity that they bring to the other characters. I’m hoping I’ll get more Oak time with the next book (Yay for more Fletcher!).
As I tend to point out in all my reviews of this series. These are not to be read as a stand-alone; it’s a trilogy of trilogies and there will be nine books in total. This one is book five, and the second of Jesse and Sean’s book. I highly recommend it, but if you haven’t read it before, definitely do not start here. Start at Blackbird and the Reeds and enjoy.
You can buy Stag and the Ash here:
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