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Book Review: Alpha Queen Legacy series, by Laurel Night

I picked up Laurel Night‘s  Wolf Shunned, the first book in the Alpha Queen Legacy series, as an Amazon freebie. I then bought the omnibus of the series so that I could read Pack Claimed, Queen Crowned, and Legacy Fulfilled.

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It’s amazing to be a powerful wolf… if you’re male.

When you’re a nineteen year-old girl who can beat the crap out of every wolf in your pack, suddenly it’s not so great.

Love isn’t everything, I know; but even the most powerful she-wolf submits to her mate. If you can’t be beaten, you can’t be mated.

And an unmated wolf has no place in the pack.

My one hope is the clan gathering in the Blackwood Fortress. Every wolf in the continent attends, and a few seriously sexy wolves catch my eye. I’m bound to find at least one who can match me, right?

Then there’s my other problem: My pack leader is a grade-A jerk. After treating me like a genetic freak my whole life, he suddenly decides to stake a claim. But I can’t refuse the challenge, and my wolf won’t back down. Either I submit to the pack leader and become mated to his skeezy pelt, or I win the challenge and my freedom… by taking his place as pack leader.

Only no one has ever heard of a female pack leader, and if I become one, I’ll never find a mate.

my review

With a few exceptions (which I will address), I really enjoyed book one of this series. I finished it excited to continue the story. However, that excitement wained as the series draggggggggs. Time went on. Days went by, in fact, where I just couldn’t seem to find the end. This despite the plot events slowing down and getting repetitive. I started dreading having to pick the book back up. I honestly think the author could cut enough chaff to reduce the series by an entire book! I never quite got to the point of disliking it. But I sure did get awfully bored.

The writing is clean and easy to read though, and I liked the characters well enough (individually and together). I liked that the men became family among themselves, as well as with Kali. A significant chunk of the books is about them learning to give up their toxic machismo, follow a woman, and come to accept that having some softness doesn’t make them weak. I thought Night addressed some surprisingly heavy topics in intelligent ways throughout the series.

There is surprisingly little sex in the series. It’s not fade to black, but there are not many sex scenes, and none of them are particularly explicit. I definitely wouldn’t call them overly erotic. (All but one of them is a virgin. So, no one knows enough to really get down from the get-go, and no single male mate gets more than one sex scene.) So, those looking for a Why Choose on the “cleaner” side could read this fairly comfortably. (But those looking for a spicy read will likely be disappointed.)

In the beginning, my biggest complaint was the age of the characters. They are all 19, weeks from turning 20. (Something important happens at 20.) Nothing about any of the characters feels 19. Most of them are the leaders of their clan, some having been so for years. They are experienced, jaded, and authoritative in a way that feels at least 35, not 19. This is addressed in the narrative with wolves maturing faster, etc. But it still yanked me out of the narrative over and over again because they so very much do not feel the age they are meant to be. (Plus, maturing faster means things like mating and bearing children are shifted back several years to accommodate, too, and that’s just icky. Especially since the characters are appropriately uncomfortable with 15-year-olds having babies, which counters the whole ‘matures early’ narrative to accommodate modern Western ideals.)

My biggest complaint, however, is not a plot point, per se (though it sure feels like one). I’m not making any allegations against the author, but I do want to acknowledge that there is something seriously hinky going on with race in the books. We’re repeatedly told the heroine is unusual and stands out as more beautiful than anyone else because she is fair-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed. We are explicitly told that most people are dark (haired, eyed, skinned). So we have a ‘not-a-drop’ blonde who is more beautiful, powerful, and dominant than anyone else, coming to save (and rule) all the muddle skin/hair/eyed people. Read that as not white, though that terminology is never actually used. Even the single explicitly coded black man is never referred to as such.

And if this was just a time or two, I might not say anything. But this happens over and over again. The heroine has five mates, so there are five opportunities to talk about someone seeing her for the first time, narrative descriptions of the societies in general—five different clans, actually—and just a plethora of chances to admire Kali’s looks (imagine Kali from the Game of Thrones show and you’ll be in the ballpark) and talk about people and their looks.

I picked the pattern up fairly early and couldn’t stop seeing it. But then it got worse. [This is a little bit of a spoiler.] The main characters are post-apocalyptic, genetically non-human werewolves. At some point, the group discovers that there are, in fact, still some true humans secretly alive. And, you guessed it, while they aren’t as striking as Kali, their limited genetic gene pool leaves them all fair and blond, and their circumstances have them miles above and beyond the primitive wolves technologically. The only true humans in the book are blond/white (and Christian, as it happens), while the non-humans are not. In fact, Kali even asks if there could have been some intermating between the humans and the wolves since she looks like the humans more than the wolves.

I don’t know that the author made purposeful racial associations here, but she did make them, and it is not even subtle. Frankly, I don’t know if internalizing such racial biases to the degree they slip through into your writing by accident is truly better than doing it on purpose. Lastly, before you consider coming for me to argue such explicit worship of the blond doesn’t necessarily mean white, read some Tressie McMillan Cottom, who writes about blonde as a signifier of race. Or here, have a TikTok primer that crossed my feed with truly miraculous timeliness as I formulated this review:


♬ original sound – The Group Behavior Gal

I also thought that the wolf/shifter aspect of the plot was underutilized. The wolves play very little part in the story. As a result, I kind of feel like the characters could have been genetically modified in ways that would make a lot more sense—just stronger, or heartier, or bigger humans, for example—without going all the way to able to shift into wolves and it would have been a stronger plot element.

All in all, I was super icked out by the race issue, but otherwise enjoyed book one and was apathetic about the last three. I didn’t hate them, but they didn’t light me on fire either.

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Other Reviews:

Wolf Shunned by Laurel Night – A Reread Review

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Book Review: Reject Me, by Kel Carpenter & Aurelia Jane

In my other incarnation as Sadie of Sadie’s Spotlight, I received a free copy of Kel Carpenter and Aurelia Jane‘s Reject Me.

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“Markus Del Reyes, I reject you.”
He left me no choice.

I refuse to spend the rest of my life with my childhood bully for a mate. I may be a cursed shifter, incapable of shifting—but I wasn’t desperate.

Not till the Alpha Supreme cast me out of the House of Fire and Fluorite for rejecting his son.

Now I’m packless.
No longer under the protection of my House.

Until the dark vampire king of Blood and Beryl turns his sights on me.

In return for protection from my former House, I have to join his.
But nothing ever comes for free.

He wants something from me, and it’s not my allegiance.

It’s the only way I can survive, but at what cost?

I’ve lost everything for doing what I know is right, but the greatest danger I ever faced was never losing my life … it was opening my cursed heart.

my review

I don’t usually use star ratings on the blog. But sometimes they are helpful in making a point. If I were going to rate it, I would say that this barely made three stars for me. Let me emphasize the for me part because although I have objective complaints, they mostly didn’t work for me for subjective reasons. What I mean is that the complaints I have may not be deal breakers for other people because they aren’t uncommon.

Objectively, the book is way, way, way too long. The plot here did not need anywhere near 532 pages to tell!

Objectively, this book doesn’t know if it wants to be YA or NA. New adult books can be hard to predict going in. Get one on the older end, and it can feel mostly adult; get one on the younger end, and it basically feels like young adult fiction. The MFC here is 24 (the MMC is 300+), but the writing and plotting feel very YA. This would be fine, except the book also has explicit sex in it. And the combination of a YA plot and prose paired with explicit sex is jarring and feels inconsistent.

Objectively, the plot is really predictable and formulaic. This book feels like nothing more than recycled material. We have all seen every single aspect of this story before—the character reject me phototypes, the plot, the third-act miscommunication drama, the betrayer, and the villain all recycled. Here’s the thing about recycled material though (which brings me back to my first point), we read such books because a lot of us like them. This one just didn’t manage to do it for me.

The writing is perfectly readable. The cover is gorgeous, and the world this sets up for the rest of the series looks interesting.

Other Reviews:

Book Review | Reject Me – Rejected mates anyone?

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Book Review: Cruel Shifterverse (1-3), by Jasmine Mas

I picked up a copy of Jasmine MasCruel Shifterverse series (Psycho Shifters) as an Amazon freebie. I purchased Psycho Fae and Psycho Beasts.

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Fight like a girl…or a shifter of lore.

After growing up with nothing, I’ve finally found my path to freedom: I’m a shifter, an elite soldier who transforms into a monster.

All I have to do is survive.

I didn’t count on my three 6’5 roommates. Covered in tattoos, jeweled, and horned, these are like no men I’ve ever dealt with before.

They don’t think I belong.
They don’t think I’m strong enough for war.
They don’t think I can fight.

I’m about to prove them wrong.

The only problem, can I survive them discovering the secrets of my past? In the battle for life and death, everyone is so much more than they seem.

Jax, Ascher, and Cobra are going to be devastated when they discover my truth…just wait until they see my shifted form.

my review

I read all of these back to back, so I’ll just review them as one. All in all, I thought this series began well, but it went downhill quickly. The whole thing started out bonkers and over the top, and I enjoyed it. But then the author just built on that theme, making it more bonkers and more ridiculous. Eventually, the jokes no longer felt like jokes. It was all just too slapstick to enjoy. It felt very much like Mas just needed an editor or BFF or someone to pull her back from the edge and suggest a little moderation. Plus, the plot of book three is basically a book two redux. I’d never go so far as to say I disliked it. But the series definitely lost any cache it might have started with.

But worst of all was just how strongly the author leaned into the ‘every woman except the heroine and her friends are worthless, slutty, and untrustworthy.’ The older I get, the less tolerant I am of this dynamic. And Mas went hard for it here. There are several passages in which we are explicitly told women are nothing but meaningless sluts with no worth. *Several* And those are just the times we’re told outright. We’re also shown over and over and over and over again, as every other female to grace the pages is either trying to get one of the men to sleep with her, betraying the heroine, or just evil in some other fashion. As a female reader, I just don’t enjoy filling my entertainment with paragraph after paragraph of how worthless my sex (and by extension) I am.

If I’m honest, it feels like a mark of immaturity.  Like the pick-me girls in high school who haven’t yet grown up and done the internal work of weeding out their own internalized misogyny. Could female authors maybe grow past doing the patriarchy’s job of them? This in NO WAY endears me to the heroine (or the author).

If I came across the rest of the series for free, I might read it to see what happens to Aron. But I’m not going out of my way for it.

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