The Worst Werewolf by Jacqueline Rohrbach
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publisher: NineStar Press
Genre: Gay Paranormal – Werewolves Predominantly, A Dash of Vampires
Tags: Werewolf Packs, Gory, Black Humour, Dark and Psychological, Ensemble of Characters, Some Romance Leanings, Sci-Fi (Small) Component
Length: 263 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
The werewolf said, “Race you to the road.” It was the last thing Tovin heard before his life became uncomfortably complex.
Before that night in the forest, Tovin was the type of guy to play it safe. Happy wearing the same shoes, buying the same deodorant, and eating the same meals day after day, he thought his simple existence was pretty great.
At least until his boyfriend Miller dumped him for being boring. Heartbroken but on a mission of vengeance, Tovin decides to start a new life filled with excitement, danger, and maybe a meal from a questionable food truck.
A date with Garvey was going to start it all. Handsome, sophisticated, the man was everything Tovin thought he needed. It was a pity when he turned out to be a werewolf on a mission to save his pack from destruction.
Now Tovin is caught up in Garvey’s world.
Abducted and forced to be the bloodservant of a powerful Alpha, he lands right in the middle of a brewing conflict that threatens to destroy humanity. An overall bad situation. So why does he still think back to that night of the forest when Garvey’s lips were on his?
Bit of a heads up, don’t go into The Worst Werewolf thinking standard MM romance, and while there is something between at least two of the characters, the book is an ensemble cast, meaning Tovin and Garvey spend more time apart and others get a lot of page time. There is one scene that could constitute physical connection but that’s it. Don’t pick it up if you must have sexy alpha and sweet omega weres, or two alphas that meet, maybe there’s instalove – because shifters, mine is thought often – because shifters, there’s a blowjob or some can’t help it hot sex at first, they know they love one another but don’t lay it out because miscommunication, still have hot sex though, have a bit of a pack issue with theirs or another pack along the way, a fight, perhaps, then they get cuddly, say I love you and fuck until the cows come home. The End. I’m not being insulting when I lay this out because, hey, you’ll find 4 and 5 star reviews by me on here with those exact arcs and stories, but this is not one of those books. This is more concentrated plot and world building, psychological, and any romantic relationship is not in-your-face obvious at this point. I’ll also split hairs and say this book is about werewolves as opposed to shifters.
Tovin has a date with a guy he met online, Garvey, because it’s time to leave his ex behind and try to be the guy people, and himself, think he isn’t. Online dating is petty daring for a guy who likes pub trivia, Matlock reruns, and no discernible change in his habits.
Garvey is certainly hot, they have a nice night at pub trivia, although some new women give him a run, then Garvey suggests they go into the woods and have sex. Ordinarily Tovin wouldn’t do this, but he’s new Tovin, risk-taking Tovin, so why not do something daring and different? Once they’re deep enough in the woods there’s a kiss and Tovin’s pants come down – all seems to be going in the right direction. When howling starts Garvey assures him it’s feral dogs, not exactly an untruth, and not to worry, a definite untruth. The howling becomes more incessant and Tovin wants out of there but after Garvey goes to have a look-see he won’t let Tovin leave. More than that, he actually tells him a few actual truths about what he is, a werewolf, or Moondog, and what the intentions are for Tovin, or part thereof; he’s being taken to a distribution centre to be sorted and sent to a werewolf as a bloodslave. The date has turned weird, granted, but werewolves and bloodslaves? Worst date. Ever!
Tovin had heard all the horror stories about online dating. People who were far less attractive than their profile picture, people who lied about their jobs, people obsessed with their exes to the point of being stalkers. His date turned out to be a werewolf.
And a jerk. Race you to the road. That was the last thing Tovin heard from Garvey before things went sour. Now Tovin was running. Only he was doing a terrible job of it.
Tovin thinks Garvey is joking at first, then he just thinks he’s insane, neither is a good option. He tries to escape but Tovin is nothing if not klutzy and uncoordinated so a lot of tripping ensues. Garvey making a personal game out of chasing Tovin through dark woods does not help matters.
The next thing Tovin knows he’s in a minivan with other humans being transported somewhere. None of this computes and none of it can be good, especially when he hears the banter between the two women driving/navigating. Tovin tries to escape by rolling out of the moving van but all he does is further injure himself and the women debate a bit more about his fate, particularly Nadine. A potential bloodlsave who is black, blue, purple, bleeding with a broken leg is not going to go well for Yuri or Nadine so Nadine sees a way out –
Joyful, Nadine clapped her hands together with a snap. “Leave him. Drive over him. This is a gift from the Goddess. The kid fell out of the car…and died. Tragic. Bummer. Sorry, Lavario.” She shrugged. “The universe is giving us this one, Yur. It’s got a bow on it.”
Alpha Guardian Eresna is not amused with how the extraction went, there is more to Tovin than a mundane bloodslave, although this aspect develops further as the book progresses, but she can’t see how she can offer him up to anyone now. And so it begins.
This book is in three parts, you get differing POV as well as an omniscient POV, so you know what people are thinking and why, always good when a book contains plots within plots and psychology deeply rooted within the narrative –
Part 1 concentrates on Tovin, Garvey, the Isangelous pack and some differences between the Varcolac and Isangelous packs. There’s also Garvey and his Moondogs or False Moons, misfits within the primary packs. This part is also humorous, as in dark humour, often at Tovin’s expense. There are quite a few characters the reader is introduced to and it takes some concentration to work out who is who and what, but they start to develop. The future for Tovin is spelled out and it’s touch and go if he survives. For reasons you learn later, Yuri is bonded to Tovin. Alpha Guardian Eresna feels for her but that’s not enough to keep what is essentially a battered and broken bloodslave. No Isangelous Alpha will want this mess of a human and it puts them in a bad position. Bloodslaves are humans who are suddenly “extracted” from their life, missing people who are never found. There are bread and butter humans and those who are prettier, more intelligent and a higher prize for a high ranking pack member. Being kindapped induces a fair amount of stockholm syndrome, so they learn to drink the Kool-Aid of their new life, which includes a certain payoff at the end, or life is very hard and they’re exterminated.
Part 2 is primarily about the Varcolac pack and Lavario, an Isangelous Alpha who was given to the Varcolac for his indiscretion of making a wolf without permission – Garvey. He also has a daughter, Kijo, who is now a powerful wolf in her own right. She was human when he found her abandoned in the woods as a baby, he was going to kill and eat her but he liked the spark and spirit in her. She was turned ages ago, she is around two hundred years old, Lavario around ten thousand years old. He loves Kijo as if she is his biological daughter but there is somewhat of a complication, Kijo is ambitious and she is Varcolac. Having been raised in that pack she lives by the Varcolac’s mantra of – pack first. The Alpha Guardian of the Varcolacs, Mazgan, wants her and he wants her to challenge her father who, in spite of Mazgan’s hatred of Lavario, is 2IC of the Varcolacs. He wants Kijo to kill her father because the Varcolac mantra of pack first really suits now. Everything in the Varcolac pack is gained by bullying, brute strength and brawling, so it is far from a harmonious pack. In contrast, the Isaangelous pack are born wolves and there tends to be a respect and an understanding of place and position. They call Lavario and the Isangelous pack Boo Hags because they like fine things – clothes, books, furniture, pretty flowers in pretty gardens, nice accommodation. Even living within the Varcolac pack, Lavario refuses to give up his Boo Hag lifestyle, which more that pisses off Mazgan, and Kijo resents it, although there is some irony later on. Ah, Kijo. I admired your determination but you pissed me off too. Mazgan, I hope a house drops on your head… after painfully slow exsanguination.
As tension, politics, simmering hatred, and ambition builds, there are some brutal aspects to this part of the book. After Kijo and the Varcolac kill a specific bloodservant’s family, and the bloodservant, Lavario manages to spare one of the bloodservant’s children. Amber, a teenager, has witnessed her whole family slaughtered and she is traumatised, terrified and understandably very angry. Lavario now finds himself with another daughter, of sorts, in his life, another who has issues with her biological father compounded by anger over her whole life being turned upside down. One who constantly reminds Lavario she is going to kill him. I liked Amber and understood her fear and motivations. I loved Lavario, he is my favourite character. I hung onto everything about him. Like absolutely everyone in The Worst Werewolf, he is flawed but he is also key to a lot of what happens in this novel and what is to come. Lavario is also a kind of grittier paranormal homage to Mr. Miyagi.
Part 3 shifts back to the Isangelous pack and their leader, Eresna, and her soldiers Yuri and Nadine who made me laugh, and Tovin makes a reappearance, as does Garvey. More noir humour re-emerges, there are some politics happening which are critical to the ongoing series but not too much is given away. There are doors and portals – hello Stargate – and Tovin thinks he is being covert when nothing could be further from the truth. He also can’t understand why the beautiful and regal Eresna keeps him around as her supposed bloodslave when it’s a lie. Even when she takes a fitting bloodslave she keeps Tovin in a villa, a nicely looked after prisoner now, none of which makes sense on the surface. Kurt, a human bloodslave who likes his lot in life, is brought in to teach Tovin how to mingle because other pack members have gotten wind of Tovin’s existence. Garvey and Tovin touch base once more in this chapter but it is brief and for part of it Tovin has no idea what Garvey is up to. However, Garvey has a soft spot for Tovin, it’s never said or shown to Tovin although readers know because on more than one occasion he refers to Tovin as adorable, his fellow wolves don’t see it because Garvey is Garvey – snarky and/or mucking around. Vampires are briefly introduced in this part of the book with an ending right when some interesting aspects are about to occur with said vampires. I don’t mind, I preferred it ending here with a fresh new chapter opening when book #2 is released.
All three parts do mesh. They mesh very well. All roads lead back to Tovin, Garvey, Eresna, Lavario and Kijo, plus some plots and plans in the wings. At times when I thought something contradicted what had been said before Ms. Rohrbach joined the dots well – I don’t like holes in my paranormal or fantasy stories and I can’t recall any here.
This book is not a fluffy “MM” shifter read, it’s quite psychological, it’s funny in parts, if you like dry and noir humour, but mostly it is primal and raw and jaded. This world is not nice. The characters are mostly unsympathetic and hard to like, yet I’m hooked. Garvey is an infuriating arsehole, funny sometimes, annoying often. Tovin is a work in progress, it’s a hard adjustment when you’re an anxious no-changes-needed kind of guy and you’re suddenly not in Kansas anymore. However, I like that he’s exploring this new side of his life and not easily accepting everything. That the “bread” kind of guy that is Tovin seems key to a lot of events that will unravel, and he doesn’t even know it, is awesome. I like it. I enjoy flawed. I enjoy everyday. I enjoy different spins on a trope or genre.
I think Jacqueline Rohrbach is a talented writer. I see her writing some excellent books as she gets into the groove – she’s humorous, the dry humour I enjoy, and she uses words well, she thinks about the big picture and has written a unique world. This book showcases some intelligent writing, there is a lot of world building and no spoon feeding, whatsoever. I’ll admit to having to concentrate in parts so I didn’t miss a thing. If you are a reader who skims, this book will confound you. Every part, every minutiae, is integrated – little character nuances, sayings, glances, actions. I love that in my writing and I admit to missing it when reading a lot of stock standard MM.
The Worst Werewolf is not going to be for everyone, I hate saying something so redundant because no book ever is, but it does fall through the cracks of where it sits genre-wise at this stage. However, I believe further instalments will take more and more readers where they want to go. If you enjoy werewolves and paranormal, and you don’t need fluffy or typical gay romance, or grand adventures rather, a more political, slower paced build, working toward what is to come, with some very dark moments, here is a good book to sink your teeth into. I really, really liked it. 4.5 Stars!
ARC supplied in return for an honest review.