Review: Lily by Xavier Axelson

What does one say when they realize their child is gone? Better yet, what does one say when that child returns, but is different?

This is the question Pryor must ask himself after his daughter, Lily, is dragged into the woods by a wolf and her body is never found. It isn't until he sees a wolf in the woods with eyes that resemble Lily's that he feels hope. And then something is whispered from deep within the woods, a promise for him to see Lily again.

One day...

But which day and for how long?

And then Pryor meets Ned, a silversmith who brings out desires that Pryor hasn't felt in years and helps him hatch a plan to keep Lily with him.

Now the question isn't about how much time Pryor will have with Lily, it's about how far will he'll go to keep her with him.

I love this flavor of horror story, for me the subtle kind are the scariest. The kind that takes something that is good and perfect and makes it wrong. Wrong and completely out of a characters control. How does a man reconcile what he still wants to believe with all his heart to the horror of the reality he is now faced with? If you’re looking at the wolf on the cover and skimming the blurb you may think this is some sort of shifter story and you couldn’t be further from the truth. Those can be fun and sexy, but this? This is a story that will put you on the edge of your seat and tease you with hope that just isn’t coming.

Lily is a story of one night. In this one night Pryor waits for Lily to come home and waits to see what Lily has become. It also tells the story of the past year in a perfect “showing” not “telling” way. The moments are told so well and are crafted with such simple and subtle sentences that say so much. So much more than a multitude of mediocre paragraphs could have. Pryor is living a tragedy in a small town and as he says,

“Small towns are like quaint traps, everyone knows everyone’s business and my business was epic. I forgot how long memories are in a town like this.”

 If you have ever lived in a small town you know how very, very true that is. Pryor’s daughter, Lily has gone missing, dragged into the woods behind their home by a wolf. She was his life and he is both devastated by the loss and convinced she is still out there. She just isn’t Lily anymore and that’s the real heartbreaker when reading Pryor's thoughts.

Lily is there, she just isn’t Lily anymore. Pryor is in a committed relationship with Ned when the book begins and how they meet and come together is told through Pryor’s memories of the last year, the year since Lily was taken. Pryor is grieving heavily and Ned is everything Pryor didn’t even know he needed. The author captured all the thoughts going through Pryor’s mind so well. His thought processes are completely skewed as everything he thinks and feels now is in relation to Lily’s disappearance.

“My first memory of Ned is not a fair one. I wasn’t in my right mind. I wasn’t looking to see anything except my daughter, so when I first saw him, his back was to me and he was hunched over a long metal table. The only thing I remember thinking was how big he seemed to be. Size had become very important to me. I measured everything by how much room it took up in my life, how much stood between my lost kid and me.”

Pryor is overwhelmed by Ned when he first lays eyes on him. Ned is a silversmith in the small town jewelry store. He’s a big man with a gruff exterior and a kind heart. Being in a relationship with another man is pretty new to both of them, but I liked how the author didn’t make that an angst point in the story. The relationship was actually pretty simple and cleanly defined, much like Ned himself. Given ALL that Pryor had going on, Ned was a perfect match. I had to wonder if the two of them would have gotten together without the drama of Lily’s disappearance. Who knows, but I would sure hope so. The chemistry between them was off-the-charts hot and when an author can use the term “cock crazed” in a story and I’m all, “yeah, he damn well was, bless him and thank you”, you know there is some hot and sexy connecting going on. It did more than make for a tantalizing read though, Ned was what grounded Pryor and made him feel safe and centered amid all the turmoil. Ned’s kisses “had come to be a weapon against the unknown and no warrior takes to the field weaponless.”

As Father’s Day approaches, which is, not so ironically, the day that Lily is to return, the tension in the book is palpable. Both Pryor and Ned are on edge and throughout the story I could see Ned’s strength through Pryor’s eyes. Just by being his quiet and subtle self in Ned’s life. He never tells Pryor that he’s crazy or that Lily is never coming back, he just supports and loves unconditionally. But, as Father’s Day comes near even Ned is feeling it.

“The tension of the past few days strained Ned’s place in the house and confused him. He wasn’t a man used to living in the abstract, he preferred concrete and metal, not moonlight and shadows.”

This is the part of the story I loved the most and what made it a five heart rating for me. See, I LOVE being creeped out and stressed out by a book. I love when the story could go any direction and give me a happily ever after or horrify the hell out of me, I just don’t know. When Lily came home I really did not have a clue what was going to happen and it was great! Poor Pryor wanted his daughter back so badly and he had such hopelessly high hopes, he had “Belief in a lie as seductive as the lie itself”. Underneath it all was the dark atmospheric feel of what Lily had become and the whole time she was at home I was on the edge of my seat. The descriptions weren’t over the top and kept the whole meeting from being campy and kept it right in the creepy edgy place it needed to be.

There is no traditional HEA here. There is a solid relationship between two perfectly matched men, so you will definitely get that feel and it’s a good one. It’s the rest of the story that takes it to a whole new place and will make me remember the book and its characters for a long time to come.

*a copy of this story was provided by the author for an honest review*


  1. Wonderful review, Ann! This type of novel is not seen often in the mass market. It must have been an exciting find. What was your favorite part of the novel?

    1. Thanks Jamie!

      This is definitely not typical and that is what I loved so much about it. Favorite part is a tough question! I have two; when Pryor and Ned got together - whew! The pure need and heat were really well written. Then the end, when Lily came home. The author captured the tension SO perfectly. I wanted to be happy for Pryor, but everything was just wrong. It through me off balance and I loved it!

      I hope you get a chance to read it, let us know what you think if you do!

  2. Thanks so very much Ann for the kind and thoughtful review. I cannot tell you how good it feels when a reader truly gets the story and loves it. I am truly grateful. Thank you, Xavier Axelson

    1. Thank YOU Xavier. I really got caught up reading Lily and absolutely loved it. It was definitely my pleasure!