“Mates such as they must stand by one another” ― Mary Grant Bruce
Before I dive into my review of Winter’s Trial I have to give a little backstory. I took this book on to review even though I had never heard of the author, even though I had just reviewed a shifter book and even though the ratings are all over the board on Goodreads. (I know, I know Goodreads is eeeeeevil) I know that atleast one friend of mine was having trouble finishing the book and wasn’t sure how she felt about it. Then I see that this book is almost 500 pages! What have I gotten myself into?!? Well, no risk, no reward, right? I actually sat up until 6:00 am so I could finish this book. Darren Endymion created a shifter world like none I have ever read before. Now, Darren didn’t “reinvent” the shifter, but there were some interesting new twists and turns.
The pack structure was pretty much the same. There, of course, was the Alpha. Then, depending on the size of the pack, there could be one or more Betas. There was a healer, a seer, a teacher and an Omega.
In this shifter universe, the females that can shift are very rare, if I recall correctly there are only eight females wolves that can shift. Even some of the males don’t shift. Then there is the way the wolves find their mates. This is where there was a huge difference from most of the shifter books I have read. Basically most wolves had “potential mates”. There are three people, human or wolf, out there that are potential mates for each wolf. Like other shifters, they would recognize their mates by scent. If the wolves never found one of the three potentials then they would take a chosen mate. A chosen mate is basically a spouse they can settle down with and have a family. The other option is if you are born with a True Mate. When a cub is born the Sage identifies the True Mate status and that cub is given a tattoo to designate them as a True Mate. They will eventually feel the pull to find their other half, their True Mate. True Mates are usually revered within the pack and given high status.
Austin was a True Mate, which was a blessing, but when he went through his first shift it was revealed that he is a Three Form. A Three form is pretty much what it sounds like. There is the man, the wolf and then the third form, basically a cross between the two. Three Forms are reviled in shifter society so when Austin shifts his father kicks him out of the pack and tells him that Austin is no longer his son. Stranded in a blizzard he is taken in by Milton and Pearl. Milton is the Alpha of his pack and Pearl is one of the revered she wolves that can shift and she has a psychic gift that allows her to read the history of a person or object when she touches them. Austin is treated horribly by the pack. Beaten, ostracized and basically made to feel he is less than everyone else. The only thing keeping him going is the knowledge that one day he will meet his True Mate.
Christian is a True Mate from a pack in Rio. He has known since he was young that he would find his True Mate in America. He has built his career around that fact. He learned English, set up his architecture job to be international and informed his family that he would eventually by leaving. The pull to find his mate hits him hard and Cris ends up traveling to America for work because he just KNOWS that this job will take him to his True Mate.
When Cris and Austin meet time freezes for both of them, their souls collide and they have never felt anything so right before in either of their lives. Cris always felt that when he met his True Mate all the pieces would just fall into place and it would be easy. Austin always felt his True Mate would swoop in and save him from the hell his life has become in his adoptive pack. Turns out both men are wrong. Cris finds out that Austin is a Three Form and that shakes him to his core. Can he stay with his True Mate? Will the Three Form madness take Austin over and end their lives? These questions become the least of his worries when he sees the conditions Austin has been existing in. The two men have to overcome their own differences, a coup attempt that could cost them everything and find a pack that will take them on and let them live a peaceful life together.
The author did a wonderful job weaving the storylines together in this book. There is the Cris and Austin story, the whole coup attempt, Austin’s past and the future of two packs on the line. The supporting cast in this novel was phenomenal. There is a snarky sixteen year old Omega, Taylor, and his family, a seventy something year old shewolf that bows to no one and a five year old little girl that does exactly what she wants, damn the consequences. There is great potential for this story to turn into a wonderful series and I for one will be reading any other books that come along in this universe.
I highly recommend this book, but, reader beware: once you start you may not stop! Just a personal note here at the end, I am SO looking forward to the next installment in this series and I can’t wait to see what happens with Taylor and his True Mate. It should be very entertaining.
Reviewed by: Jackie