Desert Isle Keeper
Maria Vale’s The Legend of All Wolves series is a unique entry in the broad and popular world of shifter romances. No one would define it as cute or fun, so if that’s the kind of paranormal romance you want, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But if you like a meaty story full of gristle to chew on, you’ll want to dive into this enthralling Scandinavian inspired tale of the men and women who’ve survived and thrived in a world where humans have taken over the role of apex predator. In Forever Wolf, the inevitable clash of man and wolf threatens the Pack and an unlikely pair of outcasts may be their only salvation.
Varya survived the decimation of her Russian arctic wolf pack through her own grit and determination, making her way as a juvenile to the Great Northern Pack on the eastern seaboard of North America. There she has risen in the ranks to the position of Shielder for the twelfth Echelon (one of the fourteen echelons, or age groups, among adult wolves) of the Pack. She is a watcher, a wolf who knows hardship and the need to be on guard at all times, a need she vainly tries to instil in those around her. Most of them don’t know what it’s like to fight for survival every day – but she hasn’t forgotten.
One day on patrol, Varya comes across an injured wolf with a familiar smell – the crisp, cold scent of the arctic. Nursing him back to health, it’s clear why he was cast out as a pup. This white wolf has one blue eye and one green, the prophetic signs of the one who will bring about the end times. Named Eyulf, he doesn’t know why he was abandoned, only that he has wandered far in his quest for survival. Varya knows she must keep his presence hidden or superstitious wolves of her own pack will seek to destroy him out of fear. The Pack is in danger from many enemies, with humans and shifters threatening their very survival. Is Eyulf the harbinger of doom or the key to their salvation?
Though the series story arc builds from The Last Wolf and A Wolf Apart, it is possible to read Forever Wolf as a standalone though it will be more thoroughly appreciated if you’ve started the series at the beginning, since the events of those two books are what has led to this finale. Still, the author does an excellent job of introducing the characters, setting and unique terms for her worldbuilding so that a new reader can catch up. I won’t rehash the sequence of events that have brought the Pack to the position they are in now, nor try to explain too much of the complexities of this world except to say that it’s gritty, bloody and compelling. This particular story is told by Varya, so you get the viewpoint of a female who is a hardened survivor, one who feels more comfortable in the body form of a wolf but has the mind of a human while understanding where she fits in the Pack and her duties to it.
As werewolves, Varya and her Pack have no choice but to turn into their wolf forms during the Iron Moon, a three day period that occurs every month. It’s important that they are in human form when the shift starts: if they are already in wolf form they will remain trapped in that form as forever wolves, losing their humanity. For this reason, the Pack takes great care to never shift into wolf form too close to the Iron Moon, and puts precautions in place for their safety when they are at their most vulnerable.
Shifters are different. They are not bound by the Iron Moon and can shift back and forth at any time, though many prefer to remain in human form permanently as they believe it to be superior. But in training themselves out of having to shift during the Iron Moon, they have also affected their ability to breed. Recently it’s been discovered that a female werewolf impregnated by a male shifter is able to bear live pups, and as this looks to be the only way the shifters will be able to have children, their current leader is intent on forcing the Pack to come to their aid. He’s not above extortion and threats to do it.
This conflict leads to an intense and action packed story, all while Varya and Eyulf are forging a friendship that becomes something more. For the good of the Pack, Varya performs mating duties with the Alpha of her Echelon, but as she and Eyulf grow closer she has difficulty weighing what she really wants against her duty. There are some love scenes between Varya and Eyulf that are very intimate and emotional, cementing their bond. But the romance is less of a focus in this story versus the previous ones in the series, and the ending is… well… can I say it has an HEA with an asterisk? It’s not the ending I expected (but rest assured, Varya and Eyulf end up alive and together), and I’m still parsing through my feelings about it. However it’s absolutely a fitting ending for the series, for the Pack, and for the many secondary characters. I’m particularly fond of the wolf pups who make several appearances.
It’s hard to do justice to a series that is so rich in detail, characters and setting. The third and final act of the Legend of All Wolves series is definitely one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to readers who enjoy paranormal romances with the caveat that you’ll appreciate it more if you read the earlier books first. Forever Wolf will not be easily forgotten.