Sunday 15 December 2019

#CBR11 Book 88: "Wolfsong" by T.J. Klune

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Official book description:
Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. The little boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the little boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the little boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the little boy’s secret and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

Ox' father is an alcoholic and a complete waste of space, who leaves his wife and son and manages to leave his son with some serious emotional scars that take him a very long time to heal from. Luckily, his mother is amazing, supportive, hard-working and kind and does her very best to counteract her husband's poison. Also helping to build Ox up and make him feel loved and valued, is Gordo, the owner of the garage where Ox starts helping out and later working part-time, to help his mother with the bills. Gordo, as well as the three other guys who work there pretty much become Ox' found family.

When Ox is sixteen, his life changes as the big house next door to the little cottage where he and his mother live suddenly have residents again. The large Bennett family, husband, wife, uncle, three sons, including the extremely energetic, talkative and exuberant Joe, the baby of the family. Joe pretty much idolises Ox from the very first moment he sees him, and Ox is shocked to discover that while the kid simply wouldn't shut up when they first met, that was the first time he spoke in two years. Having been abducted and tortured by a very sadistic and cruel man, trying to influence Joe's parents, the child is traumatised in a number of ways, and habitually plagued with nightmares. Meeting Ox seems to start bringing him out of his shell, and from their first meeting, there's a special connection between the sixteen- and the eleven-year-old.

As a result of the connection between Joe and Ox, the Bennetts pretty much adopt Ox as one of their own. The two older brothers go to high school with him, and Ox finds he is no longer the sad loner, but part of a tight knit group, suddenly getting positive female attention because he keeps company with the handsome Bennett boys. Gordo knows the Bennetts from before (they used to live in the big house, but moved away) and keeps warning Ox to stay away. He, however, refuses to listen.

When he turns seventeen, Ox discovers why Gordo is so hostile to the Bennetts. They are all werewolves, while Gordo is a witch, whose family used to have ties to the family, until his father betrayed Joe's grandfather, and went off with the psycho werewolf who eventually kidnapped and tortured Joe. Gordo and Mark, the Bennett boys' uncle, have a romantic past that they're now both studiously ignoring.

As Ox grows older and more confident, he comes to realise that he's most likely bisexual. No matter who he seems to flirt with, Joe gets furiously jealous. When Ox turns 23, and Joe is close to 18, Ox is shocked to discover that the person he really fancies is the kid who used to follow him around like a puppy. He's extremely uncomfortable, while the entire Bennett pack, who have seen it coming for years, are highly amused that it's taken him so long to catch on. Joe is going to be the next alpha of the pack, and while it's unusual that an alpha have a human, non-shifter mate, the entire family love Ox and already accept him as part of the family.

Sadly, before Ox and Joe have a chance to really explore their changed, much more sexually charged relationship, tragedy strikes, and Ox is left behind to grieve and try to pick up the pieces of the Bennett pack when Joe takes his brothers and Gordo and runs off to get revenge on the psycho who has haunted him for most of his life.

It takes three years for Joe and his revenge posse to return, and in that time, Ox has taken on responsibilities he never thought he'd have to face, mainly because he had no choice. Impossible though it should be, Ox is now an alpha in his own right, even though he is still human. His pack includes both wolves and other humans, who all support each other and defend their little town from any rogue shifters who try to come to challenge them. Can Joe and Ox heal the bond they had, which was torn apart by grief, pain and anger? Will they be able to protect their pack and their town from the dangers following close on Joe's heels, or are they doomed?

I wanted to like the romance between Joe and Ox, but felt a bit uncomfortable because a) Joe is a child and Ox is a teenager when they first meet, and b) the whole fated mate aspect is one I've never been a huge an of. Also c), Joe does the whole "I have to leave you to keep you safe" and runs off and abandons Ox for more than THREE years, right after Ox has already suffered two absolutely crushing losses and is reeling from grief. I get that the kid wants revenge, but it's still a super shitty thing to do. Ox is amazing and a big cinnamon bun and I honestly think he deserves better than Joe, even after he comes back, all tough and manly and eventually apologises. He does not grovel enough, is all I'm saying. I might have been more forgiving of Joe if the entire book hadn't been from Ox' POV. If I had more insight into Joe's actual thoughts and emotions, I may have taken his side a bit more.

What I did like was the different take on werewolves that this book presented, and also the bond between wolf packs and witches (can be both genders). Not all of that was as fully explored in this book as I would have liked, and I'm hoping to find out more in Gordo's book (one of the sequels).

While I thought the villain was far too moustache-twirly and psychotically evil, without really any good nuance, the supporting characters were all absolutely amazing and I loved each and every one of them. They are a large reason why I will absolutely be reading the follow-up novels to this, as I want to spend more time with all of them.

Judging a book by its cover: I kind of like the simplicity of this cover. The black background with the pale paw prints as a contrast. It's not fancy or elaborate, but it doesn't need to be. The orange of the title draws the eye in.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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