White Wolf by Lauren Gilley
Series: Sons of Rome #1
Published by HP Press on October 29, 2017
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NYPD homicide detective Trina Baskin is having nightmares. Vivid ones. Full of blood, and snow, dead wolves…and a young man with pale hair who howls like an animal. She chalks them up to stress and an overactive imagination, too many Old Country stories from her Russian father who, when he’s had too much vodka, starts to rave about dark forces and things that look like men…but aren’t.
But then a case hits her desk that can’t be explained. A young man found outside a club with a nasty bite mark on his neck – and not a drop of blood left in his body. With no leads, no theories that bear exploring, too little sleep, and a partner who seems to be willfully throwing his career down the toilet, the last thing Trina needs is a full-on out of body experience…in which her family’s past is revealed to her, and everything starts making a whole lot of terrifying sense.
In 1942, Trina’s great-grandfather, Nikita, is a captain of the Cheka, the Soviet political police – or so it seems. He and his men are sent to Siberia to retrieve a “volunteer,” the boy who’s going to win the war against the Nazis – and potentially unleash hell on earth.
The world’s immortal population has been living quietly, secretly, hiding from the wars of men, hoping the past can stay buried. But what happens on the Eastern Front in the winter of 1942 will change everything.
In 2017, Trina is about to come face-to-face with her own past in a way she never thought possible. It turns out monsters are real – and they might be the only hope for survival.
**Book One in an epic new paranormal series about vampires, wolves, and the humans who make immortality worthwhile.**
Being the first book in Lauren Gilley’s new paranormal series, I was super excited when White Wolf finally published. Unfortunately, I couldn’t start it right away but when I was finally able to read it, it was well worth the wait. I was riveted to the pages, hating when I had to put it down, getting more and more immersed as the story unfolded. I’m going to be purposely vague about some things as I don’t want to give too much away.
After the prelude to the book titled The Stalker (which is included in the book), White Wolf starts in present time with homicide detective Trina and her partner Lanny. They were assigned a strange case, which kept getting more bizarre by the minute. It then jumps back to Russia during WWII. This was a dark and hopeless time during Russia’s history, and Ms. Gilley captures that feeling well as she introduces us to Captain Nikita Baskin and his men. Nikita was folding under the pressure of keeping his little family alive, and broken by guilt over the one he couldn’t save. He hated who he’d become but didn’t know how to change his path and keep his men alive. My heart bled for him, especially with how everything played out.
Nikita and his group were Chekists, Stalin’s secret police, who were feared far and wide. At first glance, not a group you would ever believe you could come to love, but I did. Not everything was as it seemed with these men and they won me over bit by bit, despite the brutality they were capable of. Their newest assignment was to help a freaky old man pick up Sasha, who was eventually going to be used as a secret weapon capable of winning the war.
Sasha was everything Nikita wasn’t. Taken from his home and family and whisked off to an unknown fate, he had an irrepressible sweetness and naivete to him that he never lost. He was the light amongst the pitch black darkness of this time. No matter how dire and heartbreaking things got, even when he had to do brutal and violent things, he never lost that.
Their story was slow at first, but as it went on, the mystery and suspense completely pulled me under its spell. Ms. Gilley picked well when she chose Russia as her setting for much of this story. I’ve always been fascinated by the Russian Revolution, the Royal family, and Rasputin, especially when it came to his horribly brutal, seemingly impossible demise. For me, I always felt this time period had a mystical feeling to it, so it was easy to get into Lauren Gilley’s paranormal spin on things.
In fact, I got so into it, when it switched back to the current time I felt like I’d been sitting in a dark room and suddenly someone turned on bright lights. It was so disorienting, it took me a bit to even remember who these people were and what was going on. I do wish this had been told in two parts, with Nikita and Sasha’s part first, then going into current time.
This is not a romance book (although there is a romance aspect to it). There is no HEA, and it ends on a cliffhanger which I tend to avoid like the plague. The story captured me and wouldn’t let me go so I just didn’t care it was missing all the things I crave in a story. It did suffer a bit from being the first book in a complicated series since there was just so much detail that needed to be imparted, but that was easily forgiven. I do feel like I missed out on some huge things but I’m hoping they will be picked up in future installments.
This heartbreaking story is unforgiving in its darkness and at one point left me feeling completely gutted. Never fear though, as Sasha is the beam of light making it all worthwhile. Plus, I know Ms. Gilley has some goodness in store for us in the coming books as it all comes together.
Rating: 4.5 Waiting for the Next One Stars
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