An ancient civilization long hidden from humanity is on the brink of chaos and war. Peaceful for thousands of years, the wolfkin clans are mysteriously losing packmates, kidnapped and killed by unknown foes.
The nightmare begins with an ambush by humans at a gathering of their kind, and lives are lost. Among them is Luca, youngest grandson of the two most powerful wolves in the Northern Clans. Thought long dead and gone, he is forced into a half-life, hidden in the far northern wilds of Canada and cut off from his kind. Those who raised him have no idea the creature they harbor in their midst, and name him Ghost. He begins to lose himself over the long years, and though he barely recalls his true name, the one wolf he never forgets is Kane.
Kane, Heir to the wolfkin clan Black Pine, is charged with hunting down the traitors who betrayed their kind to the humans. Years fly by, and more wolves are dying. He refuses to give up, and he vows to never again fail another of their kind, as he failed young Luca years before. His heart tells him Luca lives, but his mind tells him that it’s foolish hope, his guilt eating him alive.
Fate and magic change the course of their lives, and the two wolves long separated by the years find their paths intertwining. Though the gift of their reunion doesn’t come without price. Faced by the consequences of their growing love, and the goddess-forged bond between them, Kane and Ghost are besieged on all sides. Enemies are coming for their blood, and without the steadfast loyalty and love of family and friends, they may not be safe from the very people they fight to protect.
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When he failed to change back into a boy, Ghost’s wolf grew swiftly. He learned to run, leap, hunt, and communicate as a wolf. The memories of his grandfather faded as he grew further away from his past, the wild northern woods seducing him, comforting him. Pack life as a wolf was easy. Straightforward. His loneliness came on him at odd times, like when he snuck into the labs and snuggled with Glen as he watched football on the television, or when he went on car rides with Cat as she traveled to the nearest town. Those trips stopped, though, once he got too large, and people started to notice how different he was. Humans got nervous easily, and around here most humans had guns.
The first time the peaceful ease of his life at the sanctuary changed happened when his wolf-form grew to adulthood. It happened quickly, and he wasn’t normal, if the confused and impressed exclamations from Cat and Glen were anything to go by—he was too large. Too big, too muscular.
His body was shaped differently, nothing like the smaller gray wolves here.
No pen could remained locked, no door shut, no snack was safe from him. If he didn’t want to stay in the enclosure with the other wolves, then he didn’t. If he wanted to go for a run, he went. And minding the manners he learned by watching Cat tutor her summer interns, Ghost remembered every time to shut doors and latches behind him, so the real wolves never got out, too.
He knew he was worrying them when they started to install something he called ‘thumb-locks’, devices that wouldn’t open unless a hand with an opposable thumb attempted it. Combinations, buttons, and more. He remembered the first time he opened a combination lock, not with teeth and tongue, or claw and awkward digit—he used his mind.
It was so easy he startled himself. He’d run up to the gates of the wolf pen, smelling some deer a few hundred yards away, and he wanted to eat something other than butchered beef. Expecting to meet a latch that just needed a nose to open, he’d been stymied by the combination lock. There were numbers inked on it, the scent of the marker fresh, and it made his nose itch. The three digits brought to mind fuzzy recollections of lessons at a large table, a sweet smelling older woman with reddish brown hair reading to him from a book, counting. He couldn’t recall what they were exactly, but he recognized them anyway.
Sitting on his haunches, Ghost tilted his head, and glared at the offending chunk of metal. He wanted out. He wasn’t a sheltered wolf battered by tragedy, incapable of fending for himself. Not like the others there. He could take care of himself. Seconds after sitting down, the tumblers spun, untouched, the wind warm as it moved around his head and to the lock. With a satisfied snick, each one fell into place, matching the numbers inked on the lock. With a grunt, he’d nosed at the lock once it fell open, and tipped the latch. The gate swung open, and he bounced through, ecstatic to be out, eager to hunt. He turned, pushed the gate shut with his head, and nuzzled the latch until it fell into place, ensuring the wolves couldn’t follow him out.
Ghost turned towards the woods, his nose twitching with the scent of deer, and then he tumbled to a stop once the reality of what he’d done hit him. He opened that lock. Without touching it.
His cry of delight morphed into one of despair, as he fought back the encroaching memories of a large gray wolf, a starry sky and miniature suns, and a dark room filled with kin and magic. He didn’t hunt after opening the lock. He ran instead, fleeing from the certainty that he was living a life that wasn’t his. He wasn’t meant for this. Ghost spent hours shaking in a damp cave, his whole body shivering from a cold that seeped through his bones. He was missing something, incomplete….. He was in a dream, long overdue to wake up. Hours in the darkness, eyes shut, afraid to remember, but wanting it all the same. The morning after, Ghost limped back to the sanctuary, since he had nowhere else to go, no one other than Cat and Glen to wonder where he was and miss him. It was all he knew for certain.
Shaman………It was a whisper from the depths of his soul. A memory.
First let me say I am not usually drawn to such long books as I tend to lose interest before the story ends. I picked up Wolves of Black Pine after seeing how much people whose recommendations I respect urged me to read it. Wow, am I ever grateful for all that good advice! This is one of the most remarkable and well written books I’ve had the privilege of reading.
As the story begins there have already been mysterious losses of wolf shifters in Canada and the United States. No one seems to know who is behind the abductions or what has become of the missing wolves. An attack on the park where a number of clans have gathered results in the killing of many wolves, including a great Shaman, the grandfather of five year old Luca. Luca is feared to be another victim, but he has floated downstream where he is found by two human wolf rescuers, who take him to their wolf sanctuary. How Luca, who was too young to shift, was able to be in his wolf form when found is an important part of the story.
Kane, heir to the Alpha of the Black Pine clan, vows to continue searching for Luca but finally has to give up when there is no sign of him for years. He still holds out hope but reality says the little boy is dead.
There is a lot of family infighting, wolf pack and clan politics, and evil humans as well as traitorous werewolves that make up this epic story. The amazing thing is SJ Himes is able to be totally consistent in her world building and character development throughout the lengthy book. There are many, many secondary characters, although some are so critical to the plot it’s difficult to think of them as secondary. Each one has his or her own personality and character flaws that makes them unique, and they stay true to that temperament unless the story actually, and cleverly, indicates they should change through growth or degeneration.
There are a number of events that are cringe worthy, including child abuse, on-page rape, and gory fights, but as tender hearted as I am none of it made me close the book or walk away as it was all essential to the telling of the story. There is conflict right up to the last paragraph, which will have to be continued in the next book in the series.
As long as this book was I was left wanting more. SJ Himes is now one of my favorite authors and I look forward eagerly to any book she chooses to write, but especially to the next book in the The Wolfkin Saga.