Title: Awakening the Alpha
Author: Carolina Valdez
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 110 Pages
Category: Multicultural, Fantasy/Paranormal, Shapeshifters
At a Glance: Supernatural books are usually at the top of my favorites list, but this one just didn’t click for me.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: Two very sexy men meet, feel a strange, mystical connection, and come together in a hot, passionate and deeply intimate relationship.
Blaze Canis is doing what he loves best. As a shooting range instructor just outside Yellowstone National Park, the former Navy SEAL sniper is still handling firearms. When Shoshone Native Logan Swift Rider walks into his target shooting class one morning, the attraction each man feels for the other is swift and magical. Since Blaze’s SEAL teammates never knew he was gay, let alone a werewolf, he’s confident his new lover need never know of his two natures.
Logan opens his heart and body to loving Blaze in the most intimate ways possible. When he learns what Blaze has hidden of himself, Logan is shattered. Although raised in both the white and Native worlds, Logan’s Indian heritage tells him he may have fallen for a witch, a skinwalker.
Can Blake convince Logan there’s no evil involved in what he is or will Logan remain convinced he’s been making love to a monster?
Review: As the blurb tells you, the instant attraction between the two main characters is mystical in nature…somehow. It never really gets explained. There’s gold cord and soul gazing and visions of a wolf, but why that happens is never really explored. Not only that, but the characters don’t really seem that concerned about it, which seems odd. Particularly because it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Blaze being a wolf shifter, and has everything to do with Logan being Shoshone. So you’d think Blaze, being a white man, would be at least a bit curious about the experience. At least, I thought that. I was wrong.
I liked the idea of Logan having a bit of magic of his own. After all, why should the shifter have all the fun? But it never seemed genuine, and sometimes felt more like a stereotype. He was raised mostly in the city, outside of the influence of his heritage, though he did spend four of his teen years on the reservation with his grandfather. Since then, he’s been living in the city as an artist who specializes in themes of his native culture. Yet Logan is supposed to have some sort of spiritual connection with the land that results in him recognizing this magical link to Blaze at their first meeting? Okay, I guess.
On top of that mystical Indian stereotype we also see mention of alcoholism, Indian modesty, a comparison of the character to a wooden Indian outside a tobacco shop, and an oblique reference to Logan being secretive, assumedly because he’s Native—all of which felt a bit like stereotyping to me as a casual reader. Now, I am the last person to claim any expertise on any of the Native American tribes, and in particular the Shoshone, of which Logan is a fictional member. I have no idea how much research the author did on the Shoshone, but based on my reading, it didn’t feel like much. There’s some high level cultural references, but nothing deep, and Logan’s ethnicity manages to be his defining character trait without ever telling the reader much about him.
I also had to actually step out of the book and Google preferred nomenclature for Native Americans because the word “Indian” was used EVERYWHERE, and I’d always been told that it was rude. Hardly any other term is used in the book. In case you’re curious, there are many different ways to refer to Native Americans, and preference usually depends on the person you’re talking to. Some do use “Indian” or “American Indian,” but many others do consider it rude. Mostly, the preference seems to be to reference the actual tribe whenever possible. But it’s always safe to respectfully ask the person you’re talking to for their preference. So it’s not wrong…exactly…but it definitely felt weird. But, I’m also not the arbiter of what’s offensive and what’s not for all (or any) Shoshone, so we’ll hope the author chose the term intentionally after taking all of that into consideration.
I also ended up googling the skinwalker legend. As the blurb indicates, this is the main source of conflict between Blaze and Logan, once Logan finds out Blaze has been hiding this part of himself. The only reference I could find was part of Navajo lore, which was what I remembered and why I jumped over to a search engine. It could also be part of Shoshone lore, as my search was cursory; I just couldn’t find it.
Aside from the whole potentially evil skinwalker angle, the way-too-brief conflict that came out of the big reveal felt a bit off. There was no moment of “holy crap, is that even REAL?” It went straight from “maybe he’s an evil witch who bewitched me into loving him” to being more about the lying. Yeah, discovering your lover is a shifter would be a shock, but why be angry about the secrecy from a near stranger? I mean, how dare Blaze not reveal this potentially dangerous secret he’s kept his whole life after knowing Logan for a few days. They’d practically known each other a WHOLE WEEK by the time it came out. Blaze is clearly a terrible, horrible person for not trusting Logan completely after that lengthy acquaintance (FYI – that’s sarcasm, friends).
Not to mention the fact that Logan is technically DATING SOMEONE ELSE. I’d warn you that this is a spoiler, but it isn’t really, as it hardly seems to matter to Logan. The boyfriend character is so minor, I’m not even sure why the author bothered with him, except to make me like Logan less. Mr. Boyfriend doesn’t do anything, never shows up beyond a phone call early on in which he *gasp* wants to be with his boyfriend, even though Logan told him he couldn’t come on the trip. Logan thinks he’s annoying and clingy and is actually planning to break up after the phone call, but never manages to get around to it. In fact, Logan cares so little for the poor guy that he never mentions him at all to Blaze. Not even after the whole secret-keeping flare up in which Blaze apologizes profusely for not telling Logan he’s a shifter. Logan doesn’t bother to return the honesty favor, and plans a happily-ever-after without ever mentioning he actually has a boyfriend waiting for him to come home. But don’t worry, at the end of the book Logan decides he’s definitely breaking up with that one dude. For sure.
I also thought that Blaze as alpha could have been given a bit more page time. It was a huge missed opportunity for his character, particularly given the somewhat inexplicable title of the book. Blaze basically becomes alpha by accident when he kills the current alpha. And he doesn’t kill the alpha because the guy’s a murderer (which he is), and it’s the right thing to do and will likely save more lives. Blaze does it to save Logan—which, you know, AWWW—I guess. But seriously, Blaze is a Navy SEAL, has already figured out this guy is behind at least two human corpses, and has SEEN HIM IN TOWN and identified him as the murderer. He just keeps minding his own business until Logan goes out into the shifter’s territory against Blaze’s advice. That’s not really all that heroic; it’s actually kind of cowardly. Beyond knowing he doesn’t actually want to be alpha, we don’t see much of Blaze in the position after he introduces himself to the beta after the fight.
Apart from my issues with the plot, and the disappointingly minor conflict and resolution in the climax, there are some awkward phrases and terms that really threw me out of the story. The worst offenders were involved in the love scenes (including cringe-inducers like “manhole” and “butt banging” in a serious context), but I also found words used incorrectly like “carrion” to refer to vultures instead of “carrion eaters” that made me wish an editor had taken a closer look at the text.
Overall, Awakening the Alpha was just okay. If you want a light, low-drama, cotton candy kind of offering, this might work for you. I was hoping for a bit more out of it.
You can buy Awakening the Alpha here: