Shifter Sunday Funday: A Walk on the Wild Side Anthology | 2016 Dreamspinner Daily Dose Week 6

The unicorns are reading Dreamspinner Press' 2016 Daily Dose | A Walk on the Wild Side Anthology

5 reviewers: Ann, Fantasy Living, Optimist King's Wench,  Reflection & SheReadsALot
30 short shifter stories... 30 various authors
6 consecutive's going to be a blast and a half!

Bring on the animal shifters of all types!

Missed a week?  Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5|

Interested in purchasing the individual titles? Click on the title above the book covers.

Final week reviews of stories by: E.M. Lynley, Elizabeth Coldwell, T.J. Nichols, Cassia Rose and Brandon Witt!

Holy Cow! by E.M. Lynley

American med student Duncan Stirling is traveling around India with his two best friends, who have just married. Their last stop is the magical city of Jaisalmer, a fort in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. He feels like a third wheel on their honeymoon, though the three friends had the trip planned for years, to celebrate finishing medical school and have a last adventure before they start their residencies back in the States.

Akash Nandi is an Indian man from a wealthy and well-known family. At least that’s how he appears. He hides the truth that his family is descended from Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, and they’ve guarded sacred places for millennia. Being gay and immortal is tough, especially when his family’s expectations make finding the right mate impossible. As his grandmother, the family matriarch, nears death, a struggle for power puts Akash and his new crush, the charming American Duncan, in harm’s way.

Reflection - 4 Hearts

Holy Cow! I think I began to read this when I was so tired that the words kept jumbling. I must have tried to read the first few pages at least four times until I gave up and took some beauty sleep and then woke up to start again. I'm not sure if it was my bad start, but I wasn't too keen at the beginning of the story, but by the end, entirely entranced.

The author conjures up descriptions of Jaisalmer that are so immersive that I felt as if I was actually there, with the sights, sounds and exotic aromas of an ancient desert fort spread before me. The beauty of the buildings and the normality of everyday life within the walls are richly evocative and remind me that I really must make an effort to experience some of India for myself. Lucky for main character Duncan he had best friend Vic to show him the authentic India as well as the tourist traps.

The other thing that impressed me was how much complexity is stuffed into this short story more than you might expect. I quickly came to care for both protagonists Duncan Stirling and his love interest Akash Nandi.

Duncan recently graduated from medical school and is accompanying his two best friends Vic and Bella on their honeymoon. Vic introduces them to his birth land and whilst he and Bella make every effort to include Duncan, he is careful to allow them time together alone as well.

This allows Duncan the perfect opportunity to take in some sightseeing and to meet the gorgeous and urbane Akash who comes to Duncan's rescue. Duncan finds himself in a scrape (literally) with a holy cow.
Unbeknownst to Duncan, Akash comes from a long line of bovine shifters. Their family is elite and ruled over by an ancient and fiery grandmother. She feels her strength fading and wants to see Duncan married before she passes to ensure her family's continued eminence..

There are all kinds of machinations afoot with some unexpected twists. I was caught up in the story and desperate to know if following one night of passion, Duncan and Akash might be able to overcome obstacles and expectations and stay together or whether it would stay as a fondly remembered holiday romance.

There obviously going to be issues, especially in a traditional society and Akash struggles not to disappoint his matriarchal grandmother. I love how magic is deftly woven into everyday existence together with folklore and social observation.

Akash has been indulged and a bit of a playboy in the past, however meeting Duncan turns his world upside down. He needs a miracle to stay with the man of his dreams especially with his grandmother determined he marries a woman. She wields magic, and huge pressure to make him conform. The timing could not be worse.

Finally I can't leave this review without saying Akash manages one of the most romantic gestures ever, and it is no wonder Duncan is swept off his feet.

Favourite quote:
'...the figure approaching their camp: a man riding a white horse its mane and tail streaming out behind it gold and pink, as the setting sun coloured the sky and sands around them.'

Add "Holy Cow!" on Goodreads!

Alpaca Lies by Elizabeth Coldwell

Alpaca shifter Alfie dreams of a life beyond the petting zoo at stately Mattock Hall. He can’t explore his crush on Simon Mattock, heir to the estate and caretaker to the animals, for two reasons. One, he’s never shifted into human form, and two, Simon is saddled with a boyfriend who’s exploiting him for his wealth. But when a fire threatens both the zoo and Simon, Alfie knows the time has come to put his fears aside, make his first shift, and save them. He just hopes Simon will like what he sees.

Fantasy Living - 1.5 Hearts

I thought this would be cute, and for the first part it was. An Alpaca shifter is different, and I liked the idea of it.

The execution did not work for me. The plot line was not believable. I first clued in when Alfie the alpaca had daydreams about Mattock and them doing naked stuff together, but then I learned that Alfie had never shifted to human form before. So how does he know about sex? He’s never even seen his own human form, and I’m pretty sure that would be vital to having dreams about what another person looked like without clothes. There was no mention of Alfie having these conversations with his shifter mother, nor seeing men getting it on in front of him, so it didn’t really make sense to me.

Once Alfie does shift, he and Mattock immediately get busy. While hot, it also didn’t make any sense. A virgin and he’s into being penetrated? The first time he is in human form? No exploration, no pause to get over the fact that he is human for the first time. Some brief mention that he would check out his cock another time when he wasn’t about to be mauled by Mattock. Just into it…. I don’t buy it. And Mattock isn’t the least bit deterred by the fact that Alfie is a shifter, and that shifters are not known to humans in this world. Just straight for the penetrative sex. Noooooope.

But Alpacas!!!

I really wanted to like it. I mean the blurb interested me enough to try it. But it tanked for me and I don’t feel richer for reading it.

Add "Alpaca Lies" on Goodreads!

A Wolf's Résistance by T.J. Nichols

Renny knew the risks when he started working for the Résistance, but he never expected to be captured and branded as a loup-garou and traitor to the State of France by the occupying Germans. Now on the run and wounded, he needs a place to hide and heal. A blacksmith’s on the edge of a small town looks like the ideal place.

At first Marc doesn’t want to believe Renny is a shapeshifter, but his curiosity and desire to help outweighs his caution. It feels good to lie to the soldiers. Better to see the heat in Renny’s eyes.

One night together makes Marc realize he wants more from life than hot coals and cold nights, but with no end to the war in sight, neither man can make promises.

Optimist King's Wench - 4 Hearts

This really worked for me. It felt complete and for a short story that’s saying something. It’s set during WWII, one of my favorite historical periods. Plus, both the protags are French! You know my feels on the French*.

Marc and Renny live in occupied France. Renny is with the Résistance and a wolf shifter. Marc’s disability disqualified him from joining the military and his being both gay and a misanthrope has led him to a small farm just outside Vosges.

He lives a quiet life until Renny, starving and in desperate need of shelter sneaks into his chicken coop to get dinner. Renny’s been hunted for hours by his own countrymen after escaping a prison camp. He takes a chance and shifts in front of Marc to beg for aid.

They only have a handful of hours together but Nichols captured the energy of the era brilliantly. The weariness, the distrust and the feeling of being downtrodden after so many years of war, death, destruction and occupation and how that atmosphere had a way of fostering connections quickly.

And this particular connection stands a good chance of surviving the test of time.

It’s more sweet than sexy and that was fine with me. I liked the atmosphere Nichols creates as well as the writing style and I got a good sense of both of these characters in a short period of time. I’ll be on the lookout for more in the future.

*My heart goes out to the French in the wake of another tragedy. Je suis désolé. #Nice

SheReadsALot - 3.5 Hearts

Set in France in 1944, A Wolf's Resistance by T.J. Nichols throws the reader right into the thick of things. Renny, a loup-garou (werewolf) is part of France's Resistance. He's packless and has nothing to lose...except his life. He's been caught by French soldier and will possibly given to the Nazis for testing. (You know how that would work out) Branded, starved, and injured by a bullet, the wolf is barely surviving but knows he must run or he'll be recaptured.

Starvation brings him to an isolated farm ran by small town, disabled giant blacksmith, Marc. The quiet blacksmith saves Renny, sees something only told in stories. Marc also hides his sexuality from others. Renny has been thrown out of his pack three years ago for being gay. That night, those two broken souls forged a connection.

I liked the premise, enjoyed the setting, The desperation from Renny came across pretty well. The quiet anger Marc felt at his country's current status, his feelings about having to socialize with his small town and being subjected to French soldiers mistreatment added an extra layer of depth to his character.

Also, I liked the connection Renny and Marc had for that fateful night. I think of their relationship as strong start where extreme factors acted as a catalyst for the speed of their passion.  That was one hot night! (Intercrural sex FTW!) The wolf parts were interesting, wouldn't have minded to read more about Renny and other loup-garou during WWII.

Interesting concept.

The story ends with a strong HFN, possibly HEA. I'd like to think this couple is one that a night together ends up leading to a lifetime of partnership.

Add "A Wolf's Résistance" on Goodreads!

Faerie Riddles by Cassia Rose

Alastar Connors’s studies of the changelings who live in the forest beyond the Great Iron Wall have been greatly aided by his friendship with the mischievous Gadhar. As a faerie creature, Gadhar’s soul takes a frightening shape, but he’s always behaved as an eager-to-please puppy around Alastar. When an intimate moment leads to an unexpected revelation, Alastar fears he may have jumped to some ill-informed conclusions about his friend. In his attempts to fix the misunderstanding, Alastar stumbles into the kind of trouble that even a quick-witted changeling might not be able to get him out of.

SheReadsALot - 3 Hearts

If you love puzzles, fantasy based stories that features all sorts of magic and finishing the story without feeling you fully know the answer, let me introduce you to "Faerie Riddles" by Cassia Rose.

Alastar is a human researcher who studies all information he can get his hands on about magical creatures, namely the fae and changelings beyond the Great Iron Wall. The Wall separates the magical creatures and humans as fae are deathly allergic to iron. Changelings are as well. Changelings are special as they share a soul with an animal. (This is where the shifter requirement kicks in) Changelings choose their animal when they are ready to reach maturity.

Alastar gets to leave the Wall to study the magical beings every moon and he befriends Gadhar, a changeling who is a mule-sized dog and loves to tease Alastar with riddles. They travel through an enchanted forest, where they travel for days to changeling settlements.

As a first time author, I think Cassia Rose did a good job on setting a basis for the world created. However, it was too condensed to achieve the magic I think this story could've been. The writing style isn't my favorite and doesn't normally work for me. But I can see it being a better fit for readers who don't mind less romantic, high fantasy - there is only fade to black and mere kisses.

The romantic elements lacked chemistry for me. Not due to the fade to black scenes but Alastar didn't really seem to crush on Gadhar until late. I mean if you're gaga over a guy, wouldn't there be some hint closer to when you finally get to seem him after a month (or however long the moon cycle is in this world)? Gadhar read lackluster too in the romance department. I think the story would have worked without the romance as the main problem of the tale is short length.

Sometimes it can work, but there were changes that happened too quickly to rush through tacked on feelings. The setting however is the best part, though it too could have been stellar with about 5-10K of story, less time with riddles more time developing the main characters. I finished this with more questions than answers and it ended weird.

Definitely read worthy but not suggested for every reader.

Loved the cover, it was very fitting of "Faerie Riddles."

Add "Faerie Riddles" on Goodreads!

Shifting Silver by Brandon Witt

The year is 1618, and Allakau is different from the other members of the Alaskan Yupik tribe. His people survive by hunting, but Allakau is unable to kill or eat flesh. As another season reaches its end and winter approaches, Allakau encounters a narwhal with silver eyes similar to his own. He saves the creature’s life but incurs his father’s wrath, and Allakau is given one last chance to prove himself a productive part of the tribe or be left behind to die. As he spends time alone in the woods, clues about his past and destiny begin to fall into place with the aid of another silver-eyed creature. His hunt might finally lead him to the truth about what sets him apart and where he belongs—if he can survive it.

Ann - 5 Hearts

Now that is how you write a fantastical fairy tale. Once I was done I really couldn’t believe how much story the author packed into 49 pages. Plus, Unicorn.

The setting is beautifully brutal, cold and desolate, and I felt the tension the family felt as they prepared for the depths of winter. I liked which direction the author took the story. Given the time period it made complete sense and made all of the characters more sympathetic, even if I didn’t agree with them. The men weren’t hunting or threatening to cast Allakau out because of ridiculous male pride, which is, let’s face it, pretty predominant in the fairy tale world, the family had to live how they did to survive.

And oh, poor Allakau, I just loved his heart. He really did want to help his family, but just could not. The thought of harming a fellow being was torturous to him and not something he could live with. Allakau had a way with the wildlife that definitely made him different. His brother couldn’t understand how Allakau couldn’t use that gift to help feed his family, but to Allakau that would have been the ultimate betrayal.

When Allakau is cast out in one last attempt to redeem himself, he meets an otherworldly beast instead and the backstory and legend that came with the meeting was a beautiful and tragic and romantic and I ate that up with a spoon.

Also, shout out to Allakau’s mom. She really was the tether between Allakau and the rest of his family and she just “got” him. Everyone should be so lucky to have a mom that gets them regardless of what makes them different. Even if they aren’t a unicorn.

Fantasy Living - 4.5 Hearts

I have yet to read a Brandon Witt story that I don’t love, and this one is no different. His execution is perfect, and the flow of the story was beautiful.

Allakau is different, and his character was complete in this short story. I was immersed in the mysticism throughout. I found Allakau to be loveable and pure. His inability to harm set him apart from his hunter family, and the conflict around that moved the story in a really well thought out way.

The imagery of the people, place, and nuances of everyone was clearly communicated. I wasn’t confused by anything in this story. Each secondary character played an important role in bringing Allakau’s character into the light.

I loved every minute of this take on the mythical unicorn. I would have enjoyed more depth into the world of a unicorn, but I don’t feel cheated. It was just that compelling that I wanted it to go on.

Everything from the Narwhal to the Nymphs was perfectly described and the images were burned into my mind.

I want to live in this world, although I think I would want to take my space heater with me. I read this while shivering in my house waiting for it to heat up, and that was perfect in transporting me into the pages of this story.

Reflection - 2 Hearts

Okay. If I could just begin by making my apologies to the author. I love the unusual setting for the story, and I know it is really well written but this story frankly irritated me from start to finish. It is just too whimsical for my tastes.

I was reminded of scenes from the children's Disney classic Snow White where all the animals adore her and follow Snow White everywhere. Come to think of it she greatly irritates me too. If you have a fondness for movie version of Snow White, then you will probably love Shifting Silver. I on the other hand am not impressed.

Alakau is on a journey both physical and metaphorical to find his place in the world and to become Fidelis.

What I did like: the harsh and unusual setting. The dual shift aspect, I don't think I have come across that before. I also enjoyed the relationship between Alakau and his mother and the fraternal relationship he shares with his brother which shifts and transitions between them reflecting utter frustration to deep love and protection.

What I don't like: the utter blandness of Alakau/Fidelis and as for his lover Luceat, well all I can say is this love lorne pair are a good match. Added to which I am not a huge fan of first person narrative and most especially when the speaker is driving me nuts. (Which incidentally is exactly what happened with ' The Catcher in the Rye' , a literary work that most of the world loves, but not me).

Favourite quote:
It wasn't her. She was safe. Why it mattered I can't say. There was no reason for her life to be more valuable than the one lost, but the ache at the death still lessened.'

As a vegetarian myself I am very glad that I neither live in that time nor geographic region in which Fidelis finds himself and thankfully I am not faced with the ethical dilemmas he encounters. I am also particularly pleased to be finished with this story a minority opinion I know.

Optimist King's Wench - 3 Hearts

Beautifully written story and my first experience with this author. "Shifting Silver' is set in 1610 Alaska during winter. Hunting and gathering are a critical part of survival only Allakau can't bring himself to kill a living being. Both his father and his brother find this infuriating and his father, determined to make Allakau into a man capable of surviving the Alaskan winters and supporting a family, gives Allakau and ultimatum-3 days to kill something and bring it home.

This is a fool's errand. Allakau is different and he and his mother have always known it. Nevertheless he goes out into the forest and meets his destiny.

The writing is lovely. There is a mystical quality about it but the tone was somber, or at least I found it to be. I loved the shifting, the nymphs were a creative touch and fated mates is always a win for me. I'm not sure if I just wasn't in the mood or if it was the tone that turned me off, but it took me a long time to get into the flow of this one and my attention kept wandering. But, I will definitely read something else by this author in the future.

Add "Shifting Silver" on Goodreads!

All copies provided for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment