So I’m having serious issues with my computer, etc. which I mentioned earlier. This leaves me with a lot of time to read. Sometimes I can read my ebooks and sometimes it has to be paper books, but either way, I reread this entire series just so I could remember what’s what when I finally got to Wild Wolf. So I’m going to do a bunch of mini-reviews for this series and hope my computer manages graphics right now. On with the books!
Jennifer Ashley’s Shifters Unbound
This incredible series has to be my favorite of Jennifer Ashley’s. In this world almost exactly like ours, the shape-shifters exposed themselves to the humans around 20 years ago. In response to this, human governments – along with some help – collared the Shifters. This collar sends extreme pain into any Shifter that attacks or displays aggressive tendencies towards anyone. As well as collaring them, the humans rounded up all the Shifters and forced them to live in places called Shiftertowns – run down sections of cities and towns away from humans. There are a host of other regulations shifters must follow according to law. The humans treat them like third-class citizens amidst a whole ton of prejudice as well and this is where we find ourselves when the first novel begins.
(In Chronological Order)
This is Niall and Alanna’s story. Published in the Mammoth Book of Irish Romance, this short story explains the origins of the Sword of the Guardian and the Shifter and Fae who created the first and subsequent swords.
Short Review: I read this after reading nearly all the other Shifters Unbound series and I recommend you read at least one of the full-length novels before you read this one as the importance of the sword to the Shifters isn’t exactly emphasized in this novella. However, it is also a good start to the series itself, taking place hundreds of years before the rest of the novels, when the Fae had yet to fully abandon our world. As with all of Jennifer Ashley’s stories, this is a romance. A hard romance between a Feline Shifter – Niall – and a Fae woman – Alanna – and how they came to forge the Sword of the Guardian, and more especially, why.
Personally, it was a nice, but very short read, though I felt it could have been a little more drama surrounding the Fae/Shifter hatred those two should be experiencing. And it was really too short to like or dislike the main protagonists and it obviously wasn’t deeply involved. However, for a short fluffy explanation piece, it was well done. 3 stars.
This is Liam and Kim’s story. Kim is a defense attorney who is assigned to defend the first Shifter defendant since they ‘came out of the closet.’ In order to do her job, which she is set on doing, she goes to the local Austin Shiftertown to meet with Liam, one of the Shifters’ leaders. She learns quite rapidly that Shifters aren’t quite as advertised and none of her research will help her out with dealing with them or the rapidly growing attracting between herself and Liam.
Short Review: This is the book that roped me into the series. I don’t remember where I picked up my printed copy, probably the local second-hand book store (because I love The Book Exchange), it looked interesting based off the blurb and the cover so I shrugged and grabbed it. And boy was I ever happy I did! Liam is uber-sexy with the Irish accent, the laid-back attitude, the alpha-ism, oh my! And he’s a Feline – in Jennifer Ashley’s world, they are actually Fae-cats – and any feline-type shifter in books makes me happy. They are my favorite! Plus Kim is very likable and I could really relate to her. Not to mention her take charge attitude when dealing with Liam and his orders. So I’d give this beginning novel 5 stars! It hooked me good!
Sean and Andrea’s story. Sean is the Guardian of Austin’s Shiftertown and a Feline. Andrea is a half-Fae Lupine who transferred in after a lot of hassle with the human government, the Lupine leader in Austin, which ended up with her being mate-claimed (unseen, I might add) by Sean. Add in a bunch of purist Felines and humans shooting up Shifter-friendly establishments and you have a recipe for a great ride.
Short Review: The characters are very well-done and likable which is what carries this entry into the Shifters Unbound universe. I did love this novel, don’t get me wrong. It was well-written and I couldn’t put it down. However, I wish it had started when Andrea was applying to move to the Austin Shiftertown, instead of after she had been there awhile. And it seemed like the ‘villains’ of the piece were simply thrown in here. I don’t know, just didn’t quite fit. So because of that, I give it 3.5 stars! Probably could push 4 since Sean is so tortured and sexy.
Ronan and Elizabeth’s story. Ronan is a kind-hearted bear shifter who looks after a house full of orphaned cubs and Elizabeth is a novelty store owner who has the misfortune of getting robbed at gunpoint one night while Ronan is in the store. He – of course – saves the day and romance blooms.
Short Review: Normally, kind-hearted men are not my thing. I like them personally, don’t get me wrong, but in novels I’m always squealing over the bad boys. I just do. The badder, the grumpier, and even the more violent they are, the more I swoon. I don’t know why. It’s my thing. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the good-boy bear shifter in any way. I do. He’s one of my favorite characters in the series, but I don’t gush over this type of protagonist. However, I was excited to see him get his own story even if it was a novella. And despite the length and introducing a new protagonist, Jennifer Ashley did amazingly well with the character development. Nowhere in this story did it feel rushed and nowhere did I feel any part of the plot or development was lacking. It was extremely well done, I loved Elizabeth and Ronan’s tale and I’d bet my left kidney any fan of the series will too! Sadly, it’s still not on the list of favorite Shifters Unbound stories, but only because Ronan is more of the “awwww, how cute the big guy is”, less of a “Oh my god, I’d totally do him if he were three-dimensional.” This is a definite 5 stars.
Cassidy and Diego’s story. This time Jennifer Ashley veered away from Austin and set the story amidst the Shifters of Las Vegas, where Eric resides as leader. His sister, Cassidy, finds herself in a bit of trouble with the law. Because she saved his life, Detective Diego Escobar pushes to keep handling her case and even convinces his boss to let her go on a temporary probation, which Diego enforces personally. Together, they solve the mystery of her late mate’s death, defeat some enemies, and even have time to fall in love.
Short Review: While I had a ton of characters I was dying to see paired up and was seriously ticked to move away from them to read about unknown characters falling in love, well… I loved it! Seriously, Diego was an alpha protagonist despite not being a Shifter and Cassidy was such an amazing woman that it made everything fit together perfectly. I still missed the Austin Shifters, but I was happy to read this romance. I simply adore alpha men in my romances. 4 stars!
Spike and Myka’s story. Myka arrives in Shiftertown to bring Spike to his four-year-old son, a result of a casual liason, and the boy’s dying mother. Spike tries to balance his new responsibilities as a father and his duties as Liam’s tracker and calls on Myka to help. This leads to a heated romance.
Short Review: I like Spike. Heck, I like the Spike from Buffy too. He’s just so bad-ass most of the time and despite – or maybe because of – his previous position as the former leader’s tracker when he was portrayed as a bit of a villain, this story was much anticipated by me. And it did not disappoint. Despite being a short novel, there was plenty of depth to this tale and plenty of heat as well. I felt it didn’t quite round out Myka as much as I wanted it to, but I couldn’t put it down when I got it and rereading it again didn’t change that. 4 stars!
(Two things. First, this is the best cover of the series I think. Awesome!!! I was tempted to simply give 5 stars just for this cover. Second, do NOT look up Hard Mated cover pics because you get a lot of pics you did NOT need. LOL!!)
Eric and Iona’s story. Iona is a half-shifter Fae-cat who was raised as human: uncollared and free. Eric realizes what she is immediately and helps keep her secret at the same time as he fights the mating frenzy she has called forth. And as always, Jennifer Ashley throws them together amidst huge issues affecting the Las Vegas Shiftertown as well as Shifters in general.
Short Review: As with the first book in this series, this one is one of my favorites. I’m just stating that up front. I loved and related to Iona quite well and the fierce heat between Eric and her nearly scorched the pages! Wowza! The development of both characters and plot was extremely well-done and awesomely implemented. 5 stars!
Nell and Cormac’s story. Another short story – this time a novella published in the anthology Unbound – set in Las Vegas’ Shiftertown. Nell’s been through a lot in her life and the last thing she wanted was the leader of Shiftertown and her sons trying to set her up with a bear that just transferred in. Unfortunately for her, Cormac has his mind set on her.
Short Review: Honestly, I didn’t care one way or the other about Nell in the books. She wasn’t a great character to me, nor was she horribly bad and I never thought she’d end up with a story of her own. However, the story was nicely written and you really can feel for Nell and her past. I did feel there could have been more back-story to this plot that could have been explored, including it somehow in their current circumstances, so while the story is complete it left me wanting more. It could have been an awesome full-length novel. Instead it felt a bit rushed and squished together to me. I mean it was paced okay for the length it was and Jennifer Ashley did an amazing job fitting it together, just felt it wasn’t done as well as the other novellas/short novels. It just could have been much better with more, I felt. I just didn’t care as much for this story as I did the others. 3 stars!
Ellison and Maria’s story. This was a long awaited novel for those of us who started the series early on. Ellison, the Lupine who embraced Texas with everything he had, and Maria, the traumatized girl rescued from ferals in Mexico: they have to overcome serious odds to be together.
Short Review: Everyone loves Ellison. I mean seriously, who doesn’t love him? And we all felt badly for him when one by one all those women were mate-claimed by others first. And now it’s his turn! I waited for his story and I was a bit disappointed by the fact it’s a short novel for one, and secondly, I wasn’t that big of a fan of Maria. I don’t know why, I couldn’t tell you reasons. It’s just she didn’t click with me well. So while the story was excellent as always, I just didn’t get into it the same way as I usually do. So 3.5 stars.
Tiger and Carly’s story. Tiger is a Shifter created by humans in a lab and left to rot in a cage until he was rescued by Iona and Eric. He moves to the Austin Shiftertown and there he wait. Until he happened across Carly on the side of the road when her car broke down. Once he saw her, he knew. She was his. His mate. And that’s when the trouble started.
Short Review: This is another installment in the Shifter Unbound series that makes this series worthwhile. I absolutely adore Tiger. He was near feral when they found him, was feral when they found him, and he is so very, very dangerous. Which makes me like him so very, very much. And Carly is just perfect for him, she understands him in ways no one else has, and she is such a joy to read while she falls in lust and love with Tiger, all while the world is going to hell. Like Pride Mate and Mate Claimed, this one is 5 stars.
Jace and Deni’s story. Jace, Eric’s son, and Deni, Ellison’s damaged sister, meet one night at the Shifter fights and immediately, passion rises. The two shifters must overcome the collar – and themselves – to be together.
Short Review: It was the perfect length, despite being a short novel. They’re both characters outside the main setting a bit, but they are both well-liked (at least by me). To be honest, I wasn’t sure of this pairing at first, but really, it worked wondrously! I have to give Jennifer Ashley kudos on that. I give it 4 stars!
Graham and Misty’s story. The former Shiftertown leader who so disparaged the rest of the Shifters for their friendliness with humans realizes humans – at least one human – isn’t so bad. Yet he still convinces himself he must mate with a Lupine for his pack wouldn’t tolerate any less. So he keeps his distance until finally, Misty finds herself in a bit of trouble and calls Graham for help.
Short Review: FINALLY! You see them around each other in previous novels and I was dying to read their story. Of course the novel starts out some time into their relationship, but that doesn’t make it less in-depth. Honestly, I usually prefer the first meeting to be in the novel itself, but I’ll overlook it because of how good this one was! The chemistry between Misty and Graham seemed a bit lacking in the beginning – I mean, how could he resist the mating frenzy? – but towards the middle and end, there’s enough heat there for any romance fan to drool over. And sigh over. And daydream over. I digress. Although I do feel the Fae involvement here was a little…. over the top, maybe? I’m not sure. I could believe the Fae (or one Fae) was the big bad of the whole series and behind all this horrible stuff, but Jennifer Ashley is starting to throw in magic from humans (maybe the phrase should be more magic charms than magic abilities). However, despite that, I found this a worthwhile entry into the Shifters Unbound universe. 4 stars!
Overall, I enjoy this series so much I will be waiting anxiously for the next installment. The universe is well thought-out and I love the mate bonds between all these characters. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. So go Jennifer Ashley. Publish the next soon.