Author: Amberly Smith
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 3 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Their physical and mental survival depends on them bonding.
Jamal Zumati joins the military, determined to repay the country that fed and housed him. But during his Hamask activation, his senses go offline and he enters a berserker rage. The United States Hamrammr Program, or USHP, has only one option: put him into hibernation.
Despite his extraordinary ability to read and manipulate situations, Vargr Lt. Rum Walker has stepped on one too many brass toes, and the USHP demoted him back to teaching new candidates. Rum is one paranoid thought away from self-destruction when he is recruited for a covert mission: pull Jamal from hibernation.
The problem is, no one has ever survived a berserker fury—at least not officially. If Rum is to challenge the military stereotypes, he’ll not only need to wake Jamal—he’ll need to get him to agree to be bonded as a Hamra Pair, the ultimate supersoldier team.
When Jamal and Rum team up with an FBI Hamra Pair to stop the terrorist group Dios Provee, Rum thinks he’ll show Jamal their true potential lies in an equal partnership, but Jamal is convinced Rum should take the lead. Will Rum stop Jamal from going berserk again and destroying both of their futures?
Review: Things went wrong when Jamal Zumati went through his Hamask activation. He gets placed in hibernation. Ryan “Rum” Walker is going to bring him out of hibernation and save his life. Rum isn’t aware his life is also in the balance. As a Vargr, Rum needs to partner up with a Hamask. He’ll become increasingly unstable and take more and more risks until a risk eventually proves fatal. Despite the odds, waking Jamal is a risk Rum wants to take. He wants to save a life. He believes Hamask can be pulled back from a berserker rage. It works. Better than anyone expected. Rum and Jamal become a sought after pair. As it turns out, Rum and Jamal are not so good out in the field. It’s a set back they didn’t expect. They also didn’t expect to fall in love with each other.
The premise of this book is great. I wasn’t a huge fan of the execution. I really felt too much was crammed into this book. Bur and Longwei were an interesting couple, but at times I felt they were more a distraction from the story than an enhancement to it. I can appreciate they were an interesting way to show a transgressive Hamask and Vargr pair, but this was shown elsewhere. For me, the notion that Hamask and Vargr pairs had fallen into stereotypical roles that damaged their effectiveness became repetitious without a big payoff showing us how big a disaster it could be.
The world building was an interesting blending of mythology and science coupled with military bureaucracy. In some ways I liked that, in other ways it left me confused as to which theme was dominant. For me, this book didn’t have the presence to create a new sub-genre.
This book certainly isn’t all bad. I was invested in the characters of Jamal and Rum. I was also invested in the characters of Bur and Longwei, though I’d have preferred to see them in their own book. Despite not appreciating all aspects of this book, I’d have no problem picking up another book by this author in the future.