Author: Kaje Harper
Publisher: MLR Press
Rating: 4 stars
Received from Author
Blurb: Stepping out of the closet as a gay man may be a walk in the park, compared to coming out as a werewolf.
From the moment artist Dylan Shore arrives in Chicago, his life gets twisted like a kaleidoscope. Why does a street gang he’s never met want him dead? Why is a hot but odd mathematician stalking him? And how can half the things Alex Corwin says possibly be true, no matter how honest he seems?
Alex has a frightening dilemma. Dylan is attractive, appealing, out and proud. He’s also completely unaware that he’s a werewolf. It shouldn’t be Alex’s job to tell him, and warn him that gay wolves usually end up dead. But someone has to, before he finds out in blood and violence.
Chicago’s not Alex’s home town, but somehow he needs to protect Dylan from the local packs, protect the Packs from being outed by Dylan, and keep his cool around the first man to touch his own deeply-closeted heart.
Review: Dylan Shore was happily sketching some wolf eyes at the zoo when he finds himself being harassed by a a group of youths. He then finds himself running for safety. Alex Corwin rescues Dylan, and is shocked the guy doesn’t realize he’s a wolf. Or at least doesn’t appear to. Alex knows he needs to tell Dylan he’s got a lot of surprises ahead of him, but he doesn’t exactly know how to explain the realities of being a gay werewolf to an out and proud guy who doesn’t know his own wolfy status. Alex is also stuck for a time with the local pack as he is working away from home and his usual pack. The local pack doesn’t feel particularly welcoming to Alex, who now realizes he also has to keep Dylan safe from these guys. Alex just wants to have a few moments where he can be gay. Dylan knows Alex is hiding something. He’s reluctant to have any kind of interactions with a guy who isn’t honest, even though he knows Alex is kind of fragile. When members of the local pack come for them Alex thinks it’s because they’re gay. Dylan thinks they’re a criminal gang. Unfortunately, it’s much worse. Nothing can go back to being to the way it was before they met.
This book could be read as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Significant events in previous books are built upon and reach a boiling point. A few gay wolves aren’t the biggest thing going on.
In some respects I think the romance in this took a bit of a back seat to the socio-political aspects of this book. Alex spent his life hiding his sexuality from those closest to him. We’ve reached a point in society where the majority of people think that’s wrong. But this book, and series, takes that a step further. What if the thing that can’t be seen hiding inside someone is potentially dangerous? What if it drives them to kill? Dylan’s story is much like Harry Potter’s. He’s part of an unknown paranormal group, but instead of bringing him friends, family, and opportunity, he ends up isolated, on the run, and in hiding. Dylan and Alex became a couple, but their relationship has come at great expense to both of them.
Speculative fiction is a great medium for discussing social ills. It’s one of my favorite things about it. Werewolves make a great downtrodden minority to other for effect. Pack structures and fearful humans are good stand ins for institutional and social prejudices. These are things I appreciate in good werewolf books, and they’re messages I agree with. However, at times I felt this book stressed these issues too heavily. I am the choir, but I don’t want to be reminded in the middle of a good story I’m the choir. Sometimes the message overtook the story.
This book is a good addition to the Hidden Wolves series. I enjoyed Dylan and Alex and the complex bad guys they faced.