It’s been a while since I’ve read Wen Spencer, but when I discovered she had a new series out, I wanted to give it a try. I’m so glad I did. The Black Wolves of Boston is just what I needed.
This novel is urban fantasy with a family focus and humor despite serious stakes while some very horrible things happen. Sure, the werewolves are nearly unkillable, but that leaves all too much wiggle room for the Wickers (blood magic users) to exploit. The concept of werewolves has neat twists, making the weres more mystical than beast, both an advantage and a disadvantage at times.
The characters are distinct and interesting in their own right whether the primaries or many of the secondary characters. Joshua is adorable and a bit young for a graduating senior, but understandably so between his over-protective parents and bullying at school. His older sister rejected him from the start and so their relationship is a bit antagonistic, but under the teasing and jibes, she has come to love him and will move mountains, or virtues as the case may be, to find out where he is and help him.
Seth has his own issues between the massacre of his family, being trained to be a werewolf prince, and the foiled aspirations of the Wolf King’s son being taken out on him. He’s a good person, maybe too good, who carries the weight of the world…or at least of Boston…on his back. While Joshua is young for his age, Seth is much older than his sixteen years and champing at the bit to be allowed back in the land he’s magically bound to.
Which brings me to Elise and Decker, the other main characters. She’s a virtue charged with destroying evil in all its forms. She’s descended from angels and can call down the Grace of God to protect her. He’s a God-touched diviner turned vampire, making him not as evil as his coffin-bed would imply. He works with Elise to protect Boston until Seth returns, a relationship much more complex than either realize.
Then there’s a host of secondary characters, both good and bad, with Jack, Seth’s cousin a little of both. Elise can contest to that, their attraction complicating an already complex situation.
I spent so much time on the characters because that’s the heart of the story for me. They’re a family of blood and choice, working out all sorts of issues while the world literally hangs in the balance. I enjoyed the time spent in their company and hope to see more of their laughable moments, growing bonds, and heroic sense of responsibility.
This isn’t an idyllic view of the world but rather a peace carved out in the midst of horror, small moments that make the characters strong enough to face the next challenge ahead of them. It seemed a good balance to me. The only sour parts were two underlying messages of money solving everything, and age and power offering uncontested authority in the novel’s world. At the same time, the characters are taught strength comes with control and responsibility while ties to others drives the narrative far more than the characters are corrupted by the convenience of wealth…at least for the good guys.
Ultimately, this isn’t a particularly deep novel. It glosses over many big issues instead of addressing them and replicates the toxic US school environment a couple of times, but it doesn’t claim to be solving the world’s ills. It’s a fun read that’s uplifting in spirit, and a good example of the value in working together and making friends. I look forward to seeing how this team balances the demands of the Wolf King who sees the big picture to the exclusion of the individual and the need to protect those they love.