Master of Wolves

Angela Knight
2006, Fantasy Romance
Berkley, $7.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425207439
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Burning

Angela Knight's Master of Wolves is part of her Mageverse series, and though I've been collecting it for a while, it's actually only the second title in the series I've read. Unfortunately, I determined rather late that as far as "monsters" go, I prefer werewolves to vampires, which is why I've not gotten to most of the other books (the other title I've read was, perhaps not surprisingly, then, the werewolf-themed Moondance, the best of the short stories in last year's Over the Moon anthology). And now I've discovered another problem; Knight's werewolves can shift not only into wolf form and dog form, but into Dire Wolf - "wolf man" - form, something I find decidedly unsexy. The idea of wolves and even dogs works for me; I Was a Teenage Werewolf-style wolf men do not. That, in addition to the complicated coming together of the vampire, werewolf, and Sidhe worlds made this one a less than great read, but there was enough good going on that I can recommend it...with qualifications.

Jim London has spent most of the last month undercover in canine form, working with police officer Faith Weston as her K-9 drug dog while he investigates the death of his childhood friend Tony Shay, whom he believes was killed by a foul magic. Being with Faith 24/7 is driving him crazy; he may be in dog form most of the time, but he's come to care for the red-headed cop who deeply distrusts all men after catching her ex-husband two-timing her. Jim is being pressured by the leader of his pack to step up the investigation, which takes on an altogether personal turn after Faith is bitten by a rogue werewolf who is also a cop, and he must reveal his true identity as well as take her through her perilous first Change.

While Faith isn't happy about turning furry, she makes the best of it, and given that her Burning Moon hormones lead to the best sex of her life, things could be worse. But she isn't about to believe Jim really cares for her in a long-term sense, even when it's clear in his mind - and through his actions - that she's his mate for life. Regardless, there are more important things to worry about; Celestine, the same powerful witch/vampire who ordered Shay's death, which inadvertently led to his biting the rogue cop, has bespelled most of the police department. Celestine wants Faith and Jim dead in order to steal their power. Neither werewolf realizes they are part of a much larger plan. Celestine is planning a coup; if she can steal the Third Grail, she can move up the power ladder, so to speak. And this is where it all gets rather murky, world-building wise.

Okay...here's my infodump: Merlin is not a Dark Ages wizard. Instead, he's an alien from a parallel universe called Mageverse who came to Earth (among other planets) to create guardians - Arthur and his knights - to save the planet. Their female counterparts, including Gueniviere, are witches; together they form the Magekind. Other fantasy/paranormal creatures inhabiting Earth are the Sidhe and the Direkind, a race of werewolves also created by Merlin - but unknown to Arthur - who exist to keep things in check. But the Direkind's leadership has taken Merlin's original rules not to reveal themselves to Arthur too much to the letter, and a group of rogue vampires and witches threaten Avalon.

Even after having read the book, I'm not sure I got all that historical world-building correct. I imagine those who have read the series from the start more fully understand the various creatures who inhabit the real and parallel Earth, but I gleaned enough to get the gist of it. What's more important is that I was able to follow Celestine's diabolical plan as she tricks various factions to achieve her goals. And even more important than that, of course, are Jim and Faith - and their developing relationship.

Of the two, Faith is the more traditional character. That doesn't mean she's not well-written, but I was far more interested in Jim, who is an artist when he isn't a 7-foot wolf man, wolf, or dog. That's right, this incredibly strong, alpha hero exuding sex appeal has a creative side one doesn't usually associate with bad-ass werewolves. It lends him a sensitivity and adds a layer of depth to his character. And given that the book practically overflows with Knight's Mageverse mythology and the overwhelming sexual pull between Faith and Jim, it's surprising she had room for that extra layer. I'm not always a fan of this author's writing, but in melding so many facets together in this story, her skill is abundantly evident.

Though my confusion and the "ick" factor of the werewolf in Dire Wolf form were problems for me, I liked Master of Wolves. While I remain less interested in vampires than werewolves, this book interested me enough that I plan to go back to the beginning of the series to learn more about the Mageverse.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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