I enjoyed this book. It’s the first normal or just beyond normal length book that I haven’t given up on in a while so that’s a good sign. The plot flowed well, the characters, most of them, were easy to understand. All in all, it was a fairly good read. There were, however, a lot of typos. More than I could just ignore for review purposes. This was an ARC so I’m hoping it wasn’t the final published draft.
What brought the book down a bit was actually the characters. Marius was just weird. I couldn’t get into his character he just seemed to float in there but he got enough page time that I was under the impression I should take him more seriously but he just didn’t seem to get it. Like he was in this war but had zero conviction either way. His was supposed to come across as a bit unintelligent but it felt more like intentional stupidity. Like if he made the effort he could better handle things but he chose to be the way he was so it was hard to sympathise with him not being on the same level as the others.
Kristoff was annoying also. He’s supposed to be the leader but he didn’t come across as some all-knowing aged veteran. It always felt more like since he was the oldest he somehow had earned the right to be the leader but for the most part, he was just secretive, made decisions and the rest blindly followed. There wasn’t enough about him prewar, or his time in the army to solidify why they would trust him and his choices always seemed wrong like, not a plot spoiler but a bit of a reveal, making William and Gabe work in mines that are dangerous and could lead to death and almost do, and the reason for this idea never pans out. Like, go do this dangerous thing even though you may not have time to finish it and even if you do it might prove a bad idea and we won’t use it anyway. That about sums up my opinion of him.
Dario, I love this name, enough to title a book this but that’s unrelated to this review, I didn’t like him. At all. You could see where his arc was going and how the crew would respond to him a mile away. The problem with this is that he’s written like I am supposed to like him. Feel for his cause but, like most of the characters, I was here for the cause but definitely not here for his style. I’m a big advocate for in war people die and you have to suck it up and deal with it but he wasn’t that kind of hero. He was more or less the equivalent of the bad guys which took away from the hero experience. Will had him pegged from the beginning.
William had the best character arc next to Gabriel. It was more than fun to see how he grew. How the war forced him out of a certain shell and allowed him to come into his own and pave his own path. The only problem is that he’s the exact opposite of Dario. He was to mid of the road. His inability to either choose to be a bad guy or choose to fight with the resistance basically made him part of the problem which was the most annoying thing about him. It made him seem more spineless than pacifist. I liked Gabriel more because even though he also hated the killing he seemed willing to do it if had to for the greater good. The best part of this book was how their bond grew as a subplot to the war. It was fun to read because it felt more real as opposed to all the angst and forced drama and tension an actual romance novel would have. It progressed in a way that engaged me. To be honest it was how both he and Gabe reacted to the other characters that made this book sing. The only downfall there that, unlike the Joan and Adrien, once they make it to the point of embracing their feelings the book is over. We don’t get to see it shine with little side bits and small gestures like we do with the two women. It felt like a missed opportunity.
Another missed opportunity was a confrontation between Dario and Will. It was a good chance to finally break will out of his shell and grow beyond just passive agreement. To dig deep into some gritty emotion and character development but the author opted to let it go for a flashier later action scene which served a singular purpose that didn’t have nearly as much emotional pull or weight until it was actually over.
Lastly, I’m still not sure why the war is happening. Is it just pure power-hungry wold domination and if so, who’s going to rule? Who is at the head of the war and stands to benefit the most from it. It was too grey for me to really dig into the emotional weight of the characters’ losses because of it.
Okay, one more thing, the limited amount of Gabe wolfing out thus being naked more often was a complete tragedy because he was pure hotness and my favourite character. So if this author ever updates this novel with a second edition, more wolf Gabe if only for when he shifts back to human form. I mean the few times he did was just pure tease. In a good way. He was by far the best-written thing next to William.
There were of course more small plot issues but the more I read and got into the book, the general style and flow and overall structure of the novel stopped those from dropping this down to a three or possibly two stars, even with the typos and the prologue the book didn’t need. The neat handling of the balance between a character-driven story but also a plot-driven action story was handled well enough to hold this book together and save it from an almost two stars. If all of the issues I’ve mentioned aren’t enough to put you off a book then there’s a strong chance you’ll enjoy this novel as much as I did. The last book I finished for 2020 and totally worth it.