Three months shy of her eighteenth birthday, Ness is forced to return to Colorado. Even though it’s been six years, and the wolves of her all-male pack don’t recognize her, she recognizes them. People who shun others because of their gender are hard to forget. Especially Liam Kolane—son of Heath, the crudest and cruelest Alpha to have ruled the Boulder Pack. Liam is as handsome as he is infuriating, as kind as he is punishing, and he makes Ness’s traitorous heart race, which isn’t good. After all, he’s a Kolane. Like father like son, right? When Heath dies, Liam vies to become the new Alpha and no one dares challenge him. Except Ness. Thus begins a treacherous game. The rules: winner takes all…including loser’s life.
A Pack of Blood and Lies approaches the genre of Supernatural romance, bringing the readers into a brand-new, yet familiar tread. The story takes place in a hotel nestled in the mountains of Boulder Colorado, an unexpected location for a book of this genre, but one that works well. The mountains and forests of Colorado provide a blanket of mystery for a story about werewolves. It is very easy to lose yourself in the environment, picturing the lodge surrounded by wolves on a moonlit night. The book’s atmosphere is especially strong, guiding the reader into a greater understanding of the world. Setting the story in Boulder also offers a nice contrast between the world of the wolves, and the one of humans. Boulder does have easily accessible urban areas, but is also surrounded by large forests and mountains. This serves the image of wolves hidden amongst human society well, and provides a nice mix of the wild with the tamed.
The story follows a seventeen year old girl named Ness Clark, the first female werewolf born to her pack in a hundred years. Almost all of Ness’ character beats match well for someone going through her personal struggles. The recent loss of her mother, coupled with being surrounded by an oppressive and sexist environment support the current, standoffish and closed-off person that Ness is. That being said, Ness’ character arc, as well as her romance, is a little less clearly defined. Throughout this story, I constantly found myself asking ‘what does this character want?’. It’s not that she doesn’t have wants and desires, but, Ness doesn’t seem to know what is motivating her to try and lead her pack. She changes her motivation several times, going back and forth on why exactly she wants this, but never seems to come to a clear conclusion. She has her share of struggles throughout the book, but almost all of them are resolved about as quickly as they’re brought up. And, when her love interest Liam is introduced, his attraction feels completely one-sided until she decides to reciprocate. Liam was possessive of Ness to the point of setting off alarm bells, and could have done with giving her a little bit of space. When it comes to Ness, her interest in Liam feels more confusing than sweet. Ness doesn’t seem to have a specific thing that attracts her to Liam, aside from his body, and the two just lack chemistry.That being said, Liam and Ness both had personalities outside of the budding romance, and the extra characters were rather interesting. Everyone has understandable motives and personalities that made them likable. While they could be simplistic at times, I still found myself either enjoying their company, or wanting to understand their beliefs. Without revealing too much, Ness’ cousin Everest has an exceptionally sad backstory, making his choices and actions heartbreakingly understandable.
A Pack of Blood and Lies has two separate intentions. The first is to set this story and characters up, and the second is to set the stage for the book’s sequel. However, as it stands, the book feels less like the first installment in a series, and more like a second book. Certain plot points are discussed and passed over as though the reader is expected to know about the setting and story already, with very little weight being given to what should be shocking and unexpected developments. Had this been a sequel, this wouldn’t have been such a problem, but it’s placement as the first book in a duology left me longing for a moment to take in what I’d just learned. In fact, throughout the book I struggled to find any rising action or climax that wasn’t resolved very quickly, leaving me feeling as though the book lacked any true stakes for our main character. However, while the lack of rising action hurts the overall plot, I feel it creates a perfect mood for the romance and descriptive scenes. Scenes where Nell is describing being a wolf, or the outdoors are absolutely beautiful, being wonderfully paced and cohesive, absolutely dripping with the atmosphere of a classic werewolf story. These kinds of scenes are where the writing is strongest, and I genuinely feel the skill of the author comes out best. There wasn’t a moment I couldn’t visualize perfectly how the characters were feeling, or how they were seeing the world.