Guest Review: Waking Jamal by Amberly Smith

Their physical and mental survival depends on them bonding.

Jamal Zumati joins the military, determined to repay the country that fed and housed him. But during his Hamask activation, his senses go offline and he enters a berserker rage. The United States Hamrammr Program, or USHP, has only one option: put him into hibernation.

Despite his extraordinary ability to read and manipulate situations, Vargr Lt. Rum Walker has stepped on one too many brass toes, and the USHP demoted him back to teaching new candidates. Rum is one paranoid thought away from self-destruction when he is recruited for a covert mission: pull Jamal from hibernation.

The problem is, no one has ever survived a berserker fury—at least not officially. If Rum is to challenge the military stereotypes, he’ll not only need to wake Jamal—he’ll need to get him to agree to be bond as a Hamra Pair, the ultimate supersoldier team.

When Jamal and Rum team up with an FBI Hamra Pair to stop the terrorist group Dios Provee, Rum thinks he’ll show Jamal their true potential lies in an equal partnership, but Jamal is convinced Rum should take the lead. Will Rum stop Jamal from going berserk again and destroying both of their futures?

Guess what day it is?!!! It’s my birthday!!! Yes it is. Seriously! Which is awesome because I’m planning my nervous breakdown later today. Come join me for my BIG THIRTY-FIVE…. *sobs* I made it *sobs some more* I hope someone brought me cake… I think I need cake right now.

We unicorns like reasons to celebrate with cake. Happy double b-day FL & Sheziss!

But seriously, Happy Release day for Waking Jamal by Amberly Smith!

Awesome story. I am really pleased that this story is being released on such a special day (my birthday, remember.)

I’ve been really getting into Sci-fi the last six months or so, and so far I’ve only read a few duds. This is definitely not a dud.

This was fantabulous. Jamal is a newly activated Hamask (bear) but something goes wrong and he enters a berserker rage during activation. This is usually a death sentence, especially when the Hamask are put into hibernation to keep them docile. Things are not looking good for Jamal, until four months later, when Vargr (wolf) Lt. Rum Walker is asked to try and wake Jamal up in the hopes that they will become a bonded pair.

Rum has been unbonded for over a decade. He has accepted his fate, and appears to be going slowly insane. That is the documented evidence from the project, for unbonded Vargr. He is not optimistic about his encounter with Jamal, but tries it nonetheless.

This story has a lot of unique concepts. Thankfully you will find the Glossary of Terms for the Valhalla Initiative right there in the front of the book. I suggest you read it thoroughly so you don’t get bogged down during the story on unfamiliar terms, and internal spell check. I still found I tripped over the term Vargr and Hamrammr but the rest was easy enough to remember.

A note before I get into the plot. This is not a shifter story. There is no shifting into an animal. The activation awakens something inside the human that creates similar instincts and physical attributes as bears and wolves (eye-sight, sense of smell, mating instinct, strength), but they don’t actually turn into anything other than growly men and women with super senses.

There was a lot of action in this story. A lot of mission practice to get Jamal and Rum working as a team, and honing their skills for real missions. They worked well together, even though they were not bonded. They were able to keep up the appearance for a time, but after a while, the cracks in their story started to show. This created some tension, and some missed opportunity for open dialogue between them, but the story still flowed well.

The plot was well developed. I didn’t miss a thing. I was completely enraptured by both characters and the overall world building. I am pretty impressed with this story, and I think I want to pressure the author to write more on this world, if that hasn’t already been decided (remember it’s my birthday?! *bats eyelashes* will that work?).

Individually both Jamal and Rum had clearly defined personalities. I enjoyed the way they interacted. I did want a little more from Rum, because I felt his character was held back a little so that Jamal could come through clearly. I don’t think that was necessary, and I would have liked the author to push both characters to the limits of her imagination.

The romance did work. Not because of some fated mate bonding but because bonding is a conscious choice as much as humans have choice over which pheromones they react to (they don’t, but they can sure say, “You smell good, but your personality sucks, we won’t be making the sex”…… ). The misunderstandings were slightly annoying and it is a pet peeve of mine, but I sort of get where Rum was coming from and why he didn’t want to pressure Jamal, thus closing off any dialogue that would have sorted that out much quicker.

The sex was very hot. There’s really not much else I can say on that. The chemistry, tension, and eventual erotic scenes were very well written. The dynamics were believable, and just yum.

A few plot holes that were subtle but will be noticed. Wick…. He is sort of a wildcard on the whole story line. I wasn’t quite sure what that was all about. It sort of made sense, but didn’t. But then I was like who cares, Jamal is sniffing Rum, and it is sexy as hell so forget Wick, he is irrelevant. Someone less interested in the sexy time may have more to complain about so I’ll leave it to them to dissect.

Learning more about the rebel group before that whole scene was executed would have felt more real to me. It felt convenient. The setup wasn’t great but meh… the sniffing and protecting…. Hawt! I’m kidding. I did care about it but it didn’t ruin anything for me.

The journal entries were a great filler and a good way to get to know Dr Brad Bur while still focusing on Jamal and Rum. Be prepared for that point of view. I really enjoyed it. It was casual and witty, great for lightening a generally serious story.

Overall I binge read this from start to finish. I think it is definitely worth reading for those who enjoy this sort of sci-fi/military storyline set on a futuristic earth. I will have my eye on Amberly Smith to see when that second novel comes out, because I want *side eye and grabby hands*.

An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads or Dreamspinner Press.


  1. I needs someone to make me that cake forreal. Happy Birthday to my birthday twin Sheziss!!!

  2. I'd love a slice for realsies too! Yum happy birthdays, unicorns!