The Forever Kiss

Jane's Warlord

Master of the Moon

Master of the Night

 
Master of Wolves
by Angela Knight
(Berkeley Sensation, $7.99, NC-17) ISBN 0-425-20743-9
****
I wasn't looking forward to Master of Wolves. I enjoy steamy sex scenes and don't mind something a little more risqué than the predictable dabbling with food. But a K-9 and his human handler? I'm sorry. That's pushing the kinky edge a bit too far. So what if the dog is a shape-shifting alpha werewolf gone undercover to investigate his friend's death in the hands of the Clarkston Police? Even that's not enough to counter the ick factor.

But be assured: I wasn't long into the book before I stopped grimacing. It's not just that Jim London quickly abandons his German shepherd disguise and that the sex scenes are blazing hot but not repulsive. Quite honestly, I was too wrapped up in the story to remember my initial queasiness. It really is that good.

The plot is fairly convoluted, and it draws on an even more complicated alternative history, so bear with me while I back track a bit. Master of Wolves is part of a series that explores an unconventional version of the Merlin legend. As readers of the earlier installments know, the magician was, in fact, an alien from an alternative universe, Mageverse, who turned Arthur and the men of the round table into vampires and Guinevere and the women into witches so that together they could better protect humans. Because Merlin feared the noble knights might become uppity and power-hungry, he also secretly created werewolves who could vanquish them should the need arise.

As it turns out, the danger doesn't come from the Arthurian vampires, but from the cult followers of an evil demon who, in their quest for immortality, have also become vampires and witches. One in particular, Celestine, wants to usurp the current leader and has most of the Clarkston Police under her thrall to this end. They provide her with the human sacrifices necessary to develop her power. Tony Shay, Jim London's childhood friend and brother werewolf is one such sacrifice. Before dying, he accidentally bites one of the bad police officers, making him a werewolf. Then, when Officer Faith Weston and her K-9 investigate what is actually another vampire sacrifice, she too is bitten and turned.

Fortunately, Faith has Jim (who now resumes his human/werewolf form) to explain what is happening and to teach her how to manage the potentially lethal Change. Since he has long been lusting after her, he is especially thrilled to help her go through her Blue Moon phase (in plain English, she is in heat). He is also convinced their feelings run deeper than pure animal attraction. So while Jim and Faith are pursuing their investigation, tracking down the bad werewolf, and engaging in hot (but very human) sex, he is also trying to persuade her to Spirit Link with him, an act which would bind them together as a couple forever. Jim has his task cut out for him. Although Faith has no problems accepting her new condition, she has been badly bitten once too often by a sexy, good-looking man to trust another.

You have to admire the license Knight takes with familiar and overwrought paranormal lore (I, for one, rather like this Arthur in jeans and U2 t-shirts). It's just too bad she depends on major info-dumping at the beginning of the book to bring us novices up to par. And while her alternative world holds together, I did spot several places where the stitches were unraveling. If the Change is so difficult to undergo, why do none of the rotten police perish? If werewolves are immune to vampire magic, why is the bad werewolf so submissive to the vampire witch?

Still, Knight deftly balances action, emotions and sex on several different planes--Arthurian, human, fairy, vampire, and werewolf--and she has an excellent sense of pacing. She knows when to turn up the heat and when to spike up the danger, when to pause for introspection and when to introduce humor. Small wonder Master of Wolves quickly captivates the most reluctant and the most skeptical of readers. It is, simply put, a riveting book.

 

--Mary Benn


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