Plot Type: Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—3-4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Tor
NOVEL 3: Reflected
Roaming is an aspect of the werewolf culture that reminds me of the Amish Rumspringa—a time when young people in their late teens and early twenties can take off on their own to roam around the country, meet people from other communities (or in this case, packs), and then either return home or settle elsewhere. Held says that she got the idea from the customs of the Travellers (aka Tinkers, Gypsies) in Great Britain. Click HERE to read her thoughts on that subject. Eventually, Dare lays down the law to Felicia, demanding that she choose one of those three possibilities, and act on it immediately. Dare's ultimatum comes after Felicia and Tom go off on a "chase" (a euphemism for sexual encounter) that results in Tom's getting hit by a car.
Almost immediately, things begins to go wrong. First, the female Portland sub-alpha arrives with her male beta, who petitions to have her removed from her alpha position because she is pregnant. Then more females from other packs show up to weigh in on one side or another of the argument. At times, this story line descends slightly into soap opera, but in the end, the seriousness of the issues raise it to the level of high drama with far-reaching effects on the lives of all of the female alphas.
Another theme involves the two sides of forgiveness: the culprit asking for forgiveness and the the injured party granting forgiveness. Held uses what she calls therapeutic metaphors (aka allegories, fables, parables) in several scenes to reflect characters' situations back to them in the form of stories. Silver tells these stories to several characters instead of giving overt advice, and she bases her stories on myths told about the Lady and on old folktales from the werewolf culture. Click HERE to read a blog interview in which Held discusses how and why she used these therapeutic metaphors.
Held tells the story in the third person, mostly from the perspectives of Silver and Felicia. In this book, Silver has to make some momentous decisions without Dare's input, a situation that she has not had to face since they got together. She also has to face insubordination and hurtful remarks from some of the wolves who have involved themselves in the Portland pregnancy case. Even Felicia uses horrific insults at one point to manipulate Silver into punishing her so that she can (at least she hopes she can) put an end to Enrique's plot. Throughout the book, Silver is forced to conquer her own weaknesses (primarily mental and emotional) and eventually she has to unlock her memories—the ones of her former pre-silver-injected self—and she has to do it alone, without Dare, who has been her constant anchor.
NOVEL 2: Tarnished
This revenge story line provides the bare bones of a plot that contains much, much more. For example, we have the developing story of Susan and Seattle (aka John). She is the human mother of Seattle's infant son, and he has no idea how to handle her relationship with his pack. Silver steps in to give Susan advice and offer a shoulder to lean on, and Dare even helps out by providing some valuable advice about pack customs and traditions. The problem is that under werewolf law, humans who find out about werewolves must be terminated. Seattle, Silver, and Dare don't want that to happen, but when Susan takes drastic action against Sacramento, she is forced to go on trial for her life during the Convocation. Unlike other UF series where a quick bite would make Susan a werewolf and quickly solve the problem, this series takes the approach that werewolves are born—not bite-created. This means that the plots are much more complex—layered with creative problem-solving and the need for patient communication. I hope that this doesn't make the series sound dull—quite the opposite, in fact. As the characters face cultural differences and work through acceptance problems, we care about them on a deeper level than if they found instant solutions through magical powers. Werewolf society here is presented as a complex social structure—not as the simple wolf-pack hierarchy we find in so many other series. It's fascinating to watch Susan as she learns to stop filtering werewolf behavior through her human mores and to understand how a werewolf pack truly functions.
Then there's the relationship between Silver and Death, who appears to her as a black wolf who uses the voices of people from her past to offer an ongoing commentary—and cryptic advice. To preserve an image of sanity, Silver must be careful to speak to Death only when others aren't around. Most people already think that she is a bit crazy, and as Dare's mate, and future co-pack leader, she doesn't want her reputation to get any worse. Death also speaks to Dare, but he tries to ignore it.
Silver is the most complex of the characters. In book 1, Dare rescued her from years of painful loneliness, and now they're a mated team. Most fascinating for me is Silver's ability to—as Dare calls it—"switch." Silver is definitely a dominant alpha, but she can also revert to the personality she developed when she was on the run. Here, she demonstrates this ability to one of Dare's old friends: "She reached down into herself for the feeling she'd clutched to her when she'd run after first losing her wild self. Don't look at me, don't see me, don't stop me, don't remember me. I'm weak, too weak to bother with. She felt it slide into her muscles, making them tight as she tried to look smaller." (p 188) Silver uses this ability to deceive her enemies, making them underestimate her and giving her time to figure out a way to defeat them. Brains over brawn—and it works every time.
The first part of the book deals primarily with the initial attacks by Sacramento and the relationship problems between Susan and Seattle. The peak of the action and suspense comes during the Convocation, which brings together all of the U.S. pack leaders and their retinues. When Roanoke (aka Rory) brings Dare's Spanish in-laws to the Convocation, along with his long-lost daughter, Felicia, the situation becomes charged with danger and emotion. The climax comes when Dare's enemies turn to violence in order to defeat him. Dare and Silver remain true to themselves and true to one another as they face their enemies and come out on the other side in a manner that is totally unpredictable—and which presents all kinds of possibilities for the next book(s).
This continues to be a terrific series—never formulaic; always original. This is not a stereotypical alpha-driven paranormal series. These werewolves do have super-size and strength, but they aren't muscle-bound pretty boys and girls. There are no woo-woo magical powers and no other supernatural species—no demons or vampires, for example. The author carefully constructs her story lines to highlight the development of her characters, providing a major pay-off for the reader. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Tarnished.