I’d never read anything by Amie Kaufman – her previous books were scifi which I’m not the biggest fan of – but this fantasy was right up my alley. In a magical world where people can shift into element-wielding animals, the land of Vallen is divided between two elemental races, Ice Wolves and Scorch Dragons. Anders and his twin sister Rayna are war orphan, their parents merely two of hundreds to die in the war between wolves and dragons over a decade ago. They’ve only had each other, struggling to survive on the street. But when Rayna transforms into a dragon and Anders a wolf, he can do nothing but watch in horror as his sister is kidnapped by the very same creatures that murder their parents.
Now shocked at his own transformation and desperate to find Rayna, Anders must join Ulfar Academy in hopes of learning how to save Rayna. Being apart of the elite soldiers and taking actual classes is surreal to Anders. Yet as he begins to make friends and experience being a part of the pack, he can’t help noticing the benefits of being part of the pack, having people there to have your back. Meanwhile, he must come to terms with the possibility that he and Rayna may not be related – after all dragons and wolves do not have children together – despite the fact that they share the same features.
As we learn more about Anders, we discover that he has always defaulted to Rayna, following her lead and letting her make any decisions. For the first time in his life, he has to stand on his own two feet and be an individual, instead of being one half of a pair. It’s great to see him come to understand himself and what he is truly capable of. Plus, it’s heartwarming to see someone who has never had a warm bed nor the chance to make friends finally get the chance.
Lizabet became Anders best friend, working as a guide to help assimilate him into the workings of the Academy. Several of his roommates and other students, helped Anders see the wolves in a whole new light and gradually become not just classmate but ‘his pack’.
The magical artefacts were really unique, you don’t see many shifter books that contain enchanted items that are regularly used. In this world the artefacts have replaced technology, used for cooking, cleaning and keeping your clothes during a shift – a hilarious and realistic inclusion for shifters. The mystery of these absolutely essential items failing was intriguing and I loved learning more about them (which surprised me, usually I’d find these explanations on everyday items boring).
By far my favourite aspect of this book was how well animal behaviour – canine in particular – was included. Not only was the behaviour realistic of canine reactions but the author was able to transfer these distinctly canine behaviours into human mannerisms. It was so successful and by far the best incorporations of the animal side I have seen in any shifter/werewolf novel I have read. Additionally, the interactions of Anders with the pack as a whole was wonderful and, again, depicts the bond between each wolf and the pack. With every thought, he’d consider how this would affect the pack but his motivation to rescue his sister was a great contrast that helped push Anders to do what was needed.
I hadn’t heard of this book and hadn’t realized it was written by such a popular author. But from the first chapter, this book had me hook, I had to find out what happened to Anders and Rayna and discover more about this intriguing world. I give it 5/5 and am so excited to read the next in the series and may even finally pick up some of Amie Kaufman’s other books.
*I listened to the audiobook version so please forgive me if the spelling of the names is wrong.