This is a super solid opener--the mix of urban fantasy with high fantasy, the shifters, the artifacts... What a fun time. Some annoying elements in this opener kept me from loving it more, but I am eagerly looking forward to the sequels.
Character relationships: ★★
Grace's life is strange. The daughter of the local werewolf pack's Alpha, Grace's inability to shift into her wolf makes her a pariah and an unwelcome member of the dog-eat-dog harsh world of the pack. She's the omega, the bottom feeder, the unwanted one. And so she gets to do the dirty work.
This werewolf pack isn't like your typical one--there's something post-apocalyptic happening here. But more on that later.
Grace's family lives on the Trepari side of the dividing line in Seattle, Washington, in a version of our world that is rebuilding itself slowly from the ravages of a human (Mondeine) vs. nonhuman (Trepari) war that occurred before Grace was born. The "cloaking"—which had previously hid all shifters, magical species, and Other from the eyes of humans—disappeared. Mass chaos and warfare ensued between the two groups. Walls were erected, cities bisected, supplies and spoils ruthlessly taken by the humans and left in dregs for the magical sides of the line. The magical beings grabbed what they could and turned into small, insulated clans that isolated themselves from all magic and non-magic alike.
When we meet Grace, she's on a dangerous heist to steal a unique artifact for her Alpha father and the pack. She's been told this item will help her free her inner wolf, and she's eager to please the pack and bring home this treasure. It's a dangerous mission for any thief, but Grace has had a lot of practice.
However, she doesn't expect this artifact to have a guardian. More specifically, a freaking DRAGON guardian...
Atrioch has lived for a long, long time. And his life has not been a pleasant one. Cursed from his father's familial line, bound to be within narrow reach of this mysterious artifact he is tasked to protect at all costs, and betrayed over and over again by those closest to him... Yeah. This dragon shifter has a serious chip on his shoulder and a pretty abrasive personality. (I would to, if I was dealt his hand.)
But then Atrioch's artifact is stolen—by Grace, a "broken" beast who can't shift and yet can get under Atrioch's skin and deal him unseen emotional blows.
It looks like Grace's life is about to get much more interesting... and Atrioch's cursed existence might just be in for some adjustments too.
Hooooo boy. What an interesting setup for series!
Firstly, let me commend this author for her inventive take on the shifter concept. While many authors in the urban fantasy scene have taken shifters and integrated them into the "real" world—I'm thinking of Patricia Briggs, Laurell K Hamilton, etc.--I have not read any novels that take the concept of a shifter pack and place them in our world but with a heavy dose of post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged modern day. That element was new here, and it was interesting.
This series is already slated to be 6 books, and I think that definitely factored in to the pacing and structure of this first book. This is a slowwww burn. A prequel, of sorts, if you really asked me to nail it down.
Romance fans will be disappointed at the lack of pairing and romantic interactions in this installment—spoiler alert, there aren't ANY—and urban fantasy/high fantasy fans might be disappointed at the sheer lack of action here too.
This is a building block for a much larger series arc, and it definitely feels like it. I think it could have included more momentum for me, personally, to keep me engaged in the flow of the story—but at the end of the day, I still devoured this book in just a few sittings so the character- and world-driven story arc in Pack of Secrets clearly worked for me on some level.
Speaking specifically on the characters, I liked Grace a lot. I liked the intricate and messed up pack dynamics. I found Atrioch to be very two-dimensional compared to Grace, but he also did not receive a lot of POV "screen" time so that might have been a casualty of how this book was framed.
I did NOT like the naive plotline between Grace and her feelings for her father. Without getting into spoiler territory, let's just say that it's a painfully obvious dynamic and watching Grace delude herself for this entire book was such a drain. It rendered her beautifully complex character into a two-dimensional being at times, and I think that is one of the main reasons why I'm rating this 3 stars instead of 4 stars. It was a thread that continued throughout the entire book and was utterly transparent to the reader and yet never resolved, deepened, or enhanced in Grace's character situation. In a very strong book, this weak element kept shining through in an annoying way.
However, all that being said, I am very excited to read book two.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.