The first half of this book was frustrating. I am not someone who remembers names well. If you introduce yourself to me, chances are I am so busy looking at your interesting cowlick or lovely eyes I don't even hear you and I have to embarrass myself 3 minutes later asking your name again. In my business, where it is very important I remember my students' names, I am still Krissing some Kims months after they've been attending regularly. This book, where all the fecking names are unfamiliar Norse sounding constructs, where we are supposed to remember a village worth of men and wolves' names and where half the effing characters change names about a third of the way in, is pure hell for someone like me. Seriously, in the previous book I read (The Virtu) I had to take two seconds every time Shannon or Stephen are mentioned to figure out which brother that was, again. And they are really quite different characters. The girly sounding one being the gay ex-lover of the main character and the other the Lord Protector of the realm. So how am I dealing with a whole cast of minor characters who can all be described as warriors bonded to wolfs and count among them a bunch of guys respectively called Ulfbjorn, Ulffred, Ulfgeirr, Ulfmaer and Ulfrikr? Or guys like Hringolfr, Hrolfmarr and Hrolleif? Actually, the last one may be a wolf. No, wait, he is Isolfr's mentor. See? I have to stop and think hard every time anyone is mentioned and that was a definitely offputting.
About halfway through, though, I had figured out who the main secondary characters were going to be and only had to expend energy trying to keep them
straight in my head and let the rest get swallowed up in a nebulous cloud of Ulfhrafrs, also known as guys-with-wolfs. And then I got sucked in and all was good.
This is not your typical man-bonded-to-animal fantasy story a la Mercedes Lackey or Anne McCaffrey, the bond is little more..... intense than that. When the wolves fight their men fight, when the wolves fuck, their men fuck, and when the Queen Bitch goes into heat, all wolves and men fight and
fuck and Isolfr, straight guy, but bonded to the Queen, becomes a bitch in heat as well and gets fucked by all the guys whose wolves fuck the Queen Bitch. Isolfr understandably spends a lot of time worrying about who the hell his wolf is going to pick as mate next, worrying about pecking order in the wolf pack and railing against guys who'd like to treat him as a woman just because he has to bend over whenever his wolf does. As I said, not quite Mercedes Lackey. All of this woven into a story of troll-genocide and dwarves and the role of women in society. Low on long boring battle scenes. Low on romance as well. But entertaining for sure.