Review: Galen and the Forest Lord by Eden Winters

Long, long ago in a faraway land, men were men (except when they were wolves), meddlesome aunts were meddlesome aunts, evil opportunists were evil opportunists, and heroes weren’t always the sharpest swords in the scabbard.

By the time Galen Olaf-kin woke up and smelled the spiced ale, it was too late, and he never finished the wicked deed for which he stood trial. Banished from his home, he flees to the forest, taking nothing but the unwanted infant he's rescued. Perhaps the legends are true and the forest lord will take them both in. The lord is said to give sanctuary to outcasts, but none of the stories mention the naughty, tempting things he whispers, or that he shares Galen's forbidden passions.

Lord Erik rolls his eyes at the prophecy that says when human hands deliver a babe to the forest, he’ll meet the mate destined to reunite forest folk with humankind. What interest has he in a child? The handsome human who brings the babe is another matter entirely, and little things like destiny and his own bumbling won’t keep Erik from claiming Galen as his own.

I don’t really read a lot of shifter stories. It’s not that I don’t like them, I’m just a picky pain in the ass, in the “it’s not the book, it’s me” kind of way. I don’t especially like the uber alpha ones with heaps of instantly accepted insta-lust. They all started to run together for me when I was reading them so now I don’t normally seek them out. There are some I do like though, the stories that don’t take themselves too seriously, have a good dose of camp and lots of snark. Those shifter stories I love, and Galen and the Forest Lord is one of those stories. It’s set in a simple fantasy world with a village, a forest, a silver lined path and a castle. It was simple enough that I could focus on the story, but not so simple that it was unbelievable or patronizing.

Galen is banished from his village in shame after being caught with a man. It was all manner of trickery and completely unfair, but, to be fair, he’d much rather be with a lad than a lass, so this outcome was probably inevitable anyway. The villagers are uneducated, ill-mannered and many of their beliefs are quite archaic, just like real life. Plus they have a terrible fear of the man eating wolves that live in the forest.

  “His (Galen’s) pursuers, armed with scythes, pitchforks, axes, stones and ignorance, their most dangerous weapon, were too afraid of the legendary inhabitants to venture past the forest’s edge.”

The forest dwellers, led by Erik the Forest Lord are quit a lively and lusty bunch and try to control their more animal instincts and live in a civilized manner. It’s a bit of an uphill battle and tests Lord Erik’s patience daily.

“They could be forgiven a lack of manners on occasion. This particular occasion marked the seventeenth time that day.”

What follows is Galen’s new life and new possibilities in the castle with Erik. Erik is noble and sexy as hell, but he’s also none too bright, bless his handsome heart. The real brains of the outfit belong to the Alpha Bitch, his Aunt Eydis At least until he takes a mate and then Aunt Eydis will gladly hand over the reins. I loved how the forest dwellers had adopted enough human tendencies to mostly hate the word “bitch” and it was used frequently to annoy as well as show reverence and the dichotomy was completely amusing. All of the dry humor in this story amused me greatly and it was really well done.

According to prophecy, Erik’s mate will be coming to him via human hands and in the form of a baby. Remember how I said Erik was none too bright? Well, his interpretation of the prophecy isn’t exactly spot on which is a comedy of errors in itself. So his wolf feels the undeniable desire to mate with Galen, his human consciousness is a little slow on the uptake. Galen is in the same boat really and their banter was fun to read. Aunt Eydis and the Court Seer, Jarl are behind the scenes driving the two men together, all the while convincing Erik and Galen it is their idea. As funny as it is to read, it is also quite sweet as they:

“ . . . enjoy the day’s entertainment – the courtship of the inept . . . “

The adventure that follows gives more than one HEA just like every good fantasy story should. I enjoyed reading about the secondary characters just as much as the main, including and especially Marta, that bitch Marta. The running joke of “that bitch Marta” is probably one of my favorite things about this story. We never actually meet Marta, but she is alluded to often enough that I feel like I can hate her good naturedly along with the rest of the characters. How Marta ends up with her own version of an HEA is priceless and that plot point was pure gold.

My only niggle, and it really isn’t much of one, is that I would have liked more of Erik and Galen together. Their characters were great and being able to see them as a couple beyond their acceptance of the prophecy would have been bonus gravy to the shifter feast that I enjoyed here.

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