Series: WORLD OF THE LUPI
Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF) with lots of Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Vilolence—4, Sensuality—4, Humor—3
Publisher and Titles: Berkley
WOTL Novels (in author's recommended reading order):
The protagonists of the series are FBI agent (Unit 12 of the Magical Crimes Division) Lily Yu and her Lupi (werewolf) soul mate, Rule Turner—prince and heir apparent of the Nokolai clan (and eventually Rho, or leader, of the rival Leidolf clan). Lily is a Touch Sensitive, which means that she can detect magic through touch, but she isn't affected by magic. She and Rule get together—very unwillingly—in book 1, when their bond clicks in and they can't fight their destiny. As it turns out, Lily is the first Chosen (i.e., soul mate) in centuries, so the bond between Rule and Lily is a big deal, both to the werewolves and to the human population, who don't really trust supernaturals of any kind. A major controversy in the series is Lily’s insistence on marriage to Rule, because marriage has been taboo for the werewolves for centuries. Werewolves mate for life, so they believe that the whole marriage thing is an unnecessary and unwanted human social contrivance. Both humans and werewolves act out their vehement opposition to the wedding.
The werewolf mythology is a huge part of the series. The Lupi all believe that they are ultimately ruled by the Lady, a mystical construct who directs their fates and to whom they owe their existence. When a lupus achieves the position of Rho in a clan, the Lady bestows an inner mantle of power on him that allows him to rule his clan without question. Each clan has a Rhej, a magical healer to whom the Lady speaks directly. Another aspect of the mythology, is moonsong, which sweeps through the Lupi each month, but it's not the brutal shape-shifting force described in some werewolf series. Instead, it's a wild, beautiful, musical energy that empowers them. As Rule muses at one point, "Moonsong, mantles, and magic. The half of him that ran on four legs and knew so much of love and blood and loyalty...all of that was not just from the Lady, but of her." (Death Magic, p. 288)
Click HERE to read excerpts from the LUPI books. When you get to the page, just click on the title of the book you want. Click HERE to read brief biographies of the main characters. Click HERE to get information on the minor characters. Click HERE for a glossary of "Weird Words" used in the series. Click HERE to read the author's discussion of werewolves, entitled "Why Werewolves."
NOVEL 7: Blood Challenge
Rule’s brother Benedict gets a second chance at love when he bonds with Arjenie, a young Sidhe computer geek with multiple magical abilities. When Arjenie becomes Benedict’s Chosen—the second Chosen for the Nokolai clan—the werewolves are sure that this is a message from their Lady (their mythological matriarch) that trouble is coming and that Arjenie will play a key role in the action—and they are absolutely correct. In other action, the fanatic Humans First group amps up their objections to Lily and Rule’s engagement, and there is a leak in Lily’s Washington FBI office, with serious consequences for Lily's boss, Ruben. Then, Lily and Rule are called to Tennessee when one of Rule’s Leidolf clan members goes berserk and kills several people. The Nokolai suspect that experimental drugs were the cause of the killer’s behavior.
NOVEL 8: Death Magic
The plot develops over several story lines: Rule gets involved in the leadership of a Shadow Unit that operates outside the law. Lily testifies before a Senate subcommittee. The magic-hating senator who heads that committee is killed, and Ruben is framed for the murder. Lily runs afoul of the law and puts her job in jeopardy. Robert Friar's Humans First group manages to cause all kinds of trouble, and they're still in league with the Old One (an evil, powerful, ancient female spirit who is trying to take over the world). Ruben has an experience that forever changes his life. Lily has her first encounter with elementals and Brownies. And finally, Al Drummond, Lily's FBI nemesis, winds up haunting her life permanently. The plot is so complex that I can't really summarize it any further without giving away some spoilers.
Suffice it to say, this is another mystical and action-filled entry in the series that shouldn't be missed. This one is particularly heavy on magic, mythology, mysticism, and mantles. I had to go back and reread a few paragraphs to get my definitions straight. For example, can you differentiate among a charm, a spell, a magical construct, and an artifact? If not, read the book carefully. You should also prepare for sentences like this one: "You know that her coven observes node action throughout the nation through a simulacra map." (p. 44) What I'm saying here is that sometimes I felt that the narrative got a bit bogged down in the dense mythology, occasionally to the point of obstruction. But on the whole, this is a great story that carries the series on to its next crisis for Lily and Rule. This book takes place in October, and the wedding is scheduled for March. I'm hoping we'll make it that far in book nine.
NOVEL 9: Mortal Ties
The plot follows Lily and Rule and their crew as they head for San Francisco to solve this complicated case. Soon, their worse fears are confirmed when Jasper admits that he has been conspiring with their old enemy, Robert Friar, who has caused them so much trouble in previous books.
As always, there are other lesser story lines, which include these: The traitor who provided access and information about the prototype must be identified and punished. Al Drummond, Lily's late FBI nemesis, is still hanging around, but this time he's helping, rather than hurting, the Lupi cause. Lily's sister, Beth, is in danger because she has developed a relationship with Robert Friar's son, Sean.
By the time the requisite, climactic showdown scene rolls around, the Sidhe have entered the mix, and Robert Friar appears to have stepped up his magical powers. Although this plot is complex (as usual), it's not nearly as complicated as the one in Death Magic. These plots are never predictable, which is one of the strong points of the series, and this book is no exception. Both Lily and the reader are kept guessing all the way up to the end of another top-notch Lupi adventure.
This book is much heavier on the police procedural process than it is on the romance, and Lily and Rule are often apart, working to their strengths in this investigation. In addition, Rule is dealing with some new and troublesome developments in the duality of his Nokolai-Leidolf loyalties. Add that problem to his "new-brother" situation, and Rule is off balance throughout most of the story. Although this book is written in the 3rd person, the point of view changes frequently—from Lily to Rule to Beth to Drummond and others. Wilks has always had a strong hold on her story telling, and she is particularly masterful at handling the police procedural process and the weaving together of story lines.
This is another terrific addition to the series, but a new reader should definitely not start here. If you are meeting this series for the first time, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. You'll be in for a great reading journey.
NOVEL 10: Ritual Magic
The themes of the story involve the differences between magic and spirit, persuasion and corruption, and free will and compulsion. Here, Lily ponders how these elements are directly affecting her thoughts and behavior: "Compulsion she was pretty clear about. That was the instant, violent overthrow of free will. Persuasion and corruption were more slippery, but corruption had to be about morality. Doing wrong when you knew it was wrong….Persuasion…that would be more like trickery, wouldn't it? Becoming convinced that the sky was yellow instead of blue, that up was down. Making a mistake because you weren't thinking clearly….When she was under spiritual attack during the fight with the dworg, had that been persuasion or corruption? Her mind had felt clear. She hadn't been tricked….But for a few moments, it had seemed okay to kill Santos if he didn't obey her….It sure sounded like corruption." (p. 347) Both Lily and Rule struggle with these elements as they face spiritual, magical, and physical attacks from Friar, the GB, and a brand new supernatural villain that has been unleashed into the world on a quest for ultimate power. Unfortunately, most of the time, the discussions and introspections about these elements were so ambiguous and long-winded that I found myself skimming over those paragraphs and pages to get back to the action plot.
As always, the fast-paced, action-filled plot is a page turner that includes so many twists and turns that you can't possibly predict how the situation will be resolved. To complicate matters, Lily and Rule's wedding is just two and a half weeks away. Plot elements include a brain-damaged homeless man who communicates only through his songs; an ancient artifact (see the cover art) filled with an infectious plague of death magic; and the powerful talents of Sam, the Black Dragon. The downside of the book is the series of frequent, lengthy, dense lectures on various aspects of magic that the main characters (and the reader) must endure in order to figure out exactly what's going on. Those info-dump scenes severely damage the pacing by bringing the action to a complete halt on several occasions.
By the end of the book, you'll get the answers to these important questions: Will Lily and Rule postpone the wedding? if not, will Julia attend the wedding as a teenager or will she get her memories back. Who will live and who will die in the continuing battles with their various enemies? (And you can be sure that there will be some deaths and serious injuries.) Is it really possible that Al Drummond is truly on Lily's side? Does Robert Friar triumph, perish, or go off to plot further dastardly deeds?
The strength of the book lies primarily in the continuing strengthening of Lily and Rule's relationship and in the further exploration of elements of the Lupi culture (e.g., the strong effects of the Mantle and the mate bond). Also poignant is Lily's interaction with her family in the wake of Julia's tragic memory loss.
In the next novel, the lead characters will be Kai Tallman Michalski and Nathan Hunter, both of whom we have met in Night Season and "Inhuman." Lily and Rule will play brief, supporting roles in that book.
NOVEL 11: Unbinding
After questing through the sidhe realms with her ex-hellhound lover, Nathan, Kai Tallman Michalski has finally returned home. But she knows Nathan will eventually be called back to serve his queen—and Kai will have to decide whether to enter her majesty’s service as well. Sure, the job comes with great bennies, but there’s one big downside: she would have to swear absolute fealty to the Queen of Winter.
For now, though, Kai is glad to be home, and glad that Nathan completed his mission for his queen with surprising ease. But what seemed to be a quick conclusion turns out to be anything but. The two of them helped thwart the sidhe god of chaos—and he is not happy about that. He’s got plans for them. Plans, too, for the sidhe who killed him some three millennia ago. Nor has he abandoned his plans for Earth, as they learn when chaos begins bursting out all over.
While Rule and Lily are in France on their honeymoon, Kai Tallman Michalski and Nathan Hunter take over as the romantic leads in this novel. Kai is a Native American mindhealer with a touch of sidhe in her bloodline, and Nathan is a former hellhound who was given human form centuries ago by the Winter Queen of the Sidhe. He has been in the Queen's service as a Hunter ever since. In Ritual Magic, Kai and Nathan assisted Lily in her search for the artifact and helped to thwart the evil plans of Dyffaya, the mad god of chaos and insanity. Now, Dyffaya is seeking revenge, and he has set his sights on Kai and Nathan.
The action revolves around Dyffaya's attacks on Kai, Nathan, and their friends, including onslaughts of poisonous pink butterflies, huge green spiders, mage fire, giant chameleons, hordes of monstrous beasts, and fast-growing thorny vines. Dyffaya wants revenge on those who took away Nam Anthessa, his magical knife (in Ritual Magic), and Kai and Nathan are at the top of his to-do list.
As Kai and Nathan build their team of allies, they spend a good deal of time explaining the many layers of magic to the newbies—way too much time, if you ask me. As a continuation of the process she began in the previous book, Wilks is putting the finishing touches on a new addition to the LUPI world-building—one that includes huge chunks of sidthe and Native American mythology that are so dense and complex that they frequently bring the action to a dead halt. To illustrate this denseness, here are a few pertinent quotations. Multiply these by 10, and you'll get an idea of how much expositional matter you'll have to get through.