Review: Strength of the Wolf — by Kendall McKenna

SOTWolfOther Reviewers: Goodreads

In all honesty, I should review the first book, Strength of the Pack, rather than this one first.  I recommend reading this series in order, so start with that one first.  I also would recommend reading it prior to reading this review of Strength of the Wolf to limit spoilers.

This series is the first material of Kendall McKenna I have read, although based on her other novels’ blurbs she has a large theme of military.  In fact, you will see that this detail quickly illustrates the strength in her writing.

Basic Plot:

As book 2 in the series, this novel takes Major Tim Madison’s perspective after the conclusion of book 1 (Lucas and Noah’s story).  We are introduced to a civilian True-Alpha, Jeremy Wagner who is coming into his powers.  The sparks between the two men fly.  But can Jeremy handle a military man in combat and can Tim deal with becoming the Dominant of a True Alpha?

Background:

Before detailing the characters, I need to mention the werewolf culture.  There are werewolves, these shifters are not in hiding, but a part of the “normal” world, although there is an aura of awe when normals talk about them.  In this world, they are part of the military easily (although I believe this is going to our over-arching conflict of the series) and there are codes for how to handle werewolf situations just like the military codes of conduct.  Book 2 is after Lucas and Noah get together, in fact Noah is True-Alpha for all werewolves in all branches of the military.  We could say that they are the “main characters” of the series, although this book did focus on Tim and Jeremy’s relationship.

True-Alpha are well, Uber-wolves, those that are born with the power to be a leader of the pack.  This is greater than just a normal alpha pack leader, almost like the “alpha” is normal and the “true-alpha” is magical.  Certainly there are very few True-Alphas and they are revered when discovered.

Dominants (not sure if they are only human or just happen to be humans in these first two books) are the mate partners to the True-Alphas.  There is a magical connection between the two.  This is not a true Dom/sub relationship like you would see within BDSM, it certainly has nothing to do with who has “control” or who “tops” in a sexual situations.  It is more about the actual connection between the two characters, the Dominant is able to connect to both sides of the True-Alpha, man and wolf and through that connection and power we see the role of the Dominant.  You should really read the first book to get a better understanding (than my feeble attempts to describe) of the roles.

Jeremy Wagner:

Throughout both books, the main characters and side characters are all military, so Jeremy is a bit refreshing.  If he is confused about military talk then we get explanations.  He is a young architect who we are introduced when the men come back into the States.  He is in the process of transforming into a True-Alpha, which is something we do not see in book 1 as Noah was already an established one.  Jeremy is slightly out of control when we first see him as he has had no trainer or pack to help him through this.

“Shut the fuck up and fight,” the kid growled.  His hands curled into fists at his sides.  His breathing was visibly rapid.  His body practically vibrated with aggression.

“Noah,” Lucas said warningly.

“It’s okay,” Noah said quietly.  He was obviously on alert, but he wasn’t showing his typical aggression.  “He can’t help himself.  I’ll take care of it.  You guys just stay out of the way.”

This is an intense introduction to Jeremy’s character, but we quickly realize that he is in need of help not that the is some roid-rage out of control alpha.

What I like about his character is he is a “normal” person, we see through him how spouses of military have to deal with their mates in combat and the long distance apart.  Add to that the fact that they can feel each other’s emotions, like fear and we understand the complexity of this relationship.

Tim Madison:

Tim is our view-point in this book, so all emotions and dialogue is from his perspective.  The same can be said for the first book, we only got one perspective there as well.  However, because of the connection between True-Alpha and Dominant, we are still given glimpses of the state-of-mind of the True-Alpha.

Tim is the commander of Noah and Lucas and his recent role is the military commander of the wolves within the military.  Consider it like he is the liaison between military and the True-Alpha.

“I thought that’s what you were for.”  Tim couldn’t help it, Lucas was too damn fun to tease.  Right on cue, the lieutenant’s face flushed bright red.

“Fuck you.”  Lucas shoved Tim’s shoulder.  “Sir.”

The rule they’d observed during the last year was in effect now.  They were both off duty and discussing Lucas’ and Noah’s pack of werewolves, so rank was set aside.  Right now, he wasn’t Captain Madison, Lucas’ company commander.  He was just Tim.

And this balance between advisor, friend, and commander is something that Tim excels at and makes him unique.  Certainly if he did not have both Lucas and Noah’s respect, he could never do his job.  Tim’s understanding of the wolf and the man makes him a good friend, boss, and Dominant.

Theme Summary:

I really have found two themes within the book.  There is the basic, “can they accept each other to become mates” theme that runs through each book and each main couple’s story lines.  But I also feel that there is this overarching theme regarding the wolves roles within the military.  This is just me, but I feel that we are going to end up with some sort of conflict between the weres wanting to fight for their country and the human military wanting to use Noah and Lucas’ power to CONTROL the weres.  This is just hinted in the first two books, so we will see in book 3, Strength of the Mate.  What I would like to see is when we get to the “final show-down” we get another book of  Noah and Lucas’ perspective like the first.  But we will see, maybe I am just imaging this entire conflict.

Strong Points:

The largest strength I see within this novel is the quality of writing and the realism of the military scenes.  As a reader, we are instantly drawn into the world and there were many times when I felt like I was watching a movie, not just reading a book.

A wall of heat slammed into him like a runaway Humvee.  A skull-shattering roar filled the air.  Tim hit the ground hard, sharp pain spiked through his shoulder and hip.  The impact jarred every bone, forcing the air from his lungs in a mighty whoosh.  His teeth rattled and his ears rang.  The coppery taste of blood filled his mouth.  Tim couldn’t move; he couldn’t get air back into his lungs.  All he could see was white light, the only sound was a high-pitched ringing.  Tim’s chest burned, the side of his tongue throbbed with a stinging pain.  He had to get to his feet, he was vulnerable on the ground.  Where the fuck was his weapon?  Was he wearing his sidearm?

This attention to detail draws us into the picture and we can feel the sweat, smell the blood, and understand the fear.

What could be better?

I would not say “better”, but there seemed to be quite a bit of sex in this book.  On my second read through, I actually started skipping those scenes toward the end.  This might be more of a preference rather than say a question over quality.

In all fairness, I preferred the first book better, mostly because I found the relationship of Lucas and Noah more compelling.  But that is not really fair as their relationship is far different from any other partnership we might find in this series.

Conclusions:

This blog post pretty much wrote itself.  I enjoyed the book and I loved getting the glimpses into the military life that seemed realistic in nature.  The focus on the trauma (long-term and short-term) that our men and women face in the field is not glossed over here and made me appreciate how they keep us safe.  I loved how we saw Jeremy grow into his True-Alpha powers and how he gained his pack.  A very solid second book in the series, I look forward to the next one.

Bea

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