Born a beta wolf, there is but a single path that Fern is expected to travel once he comes of age: participate in the coming-of-age/mating ritual known as the Offering and secure a mate. As far as Fern is concerned, however, it’s not so much that he will pick a mate, but rather be subjected—and subjugated—to whichever alpha werewolf is clever enough to catch him. Fern is ever hopeful that a beautiful female will be interested in him. However, as the ritual gets underway, one muscle-bound alpha male after another tries to capture Fern. Finally, there is only one alpha wolf left before him—sleek and strong with midnight-black fur and glowing blue eyes. His name is Donovan Blackfang; he is highborne like Fern and eager to play alpha to Fern’s beta. But the Don’s arresting appearance is paired an arresting temperament to match…he wants Fern to fall into the cultural role of beta, for Fern to submit himself willingly and wantonly to Don, and for Fern to be wholly brought under Don’s power and control. Because that is what a good alpha does—cares for his beta’s every want and need.
Despite initiating the mating bond on the first night of the Offering, Don must still coax and guide Fern through two more Offering events over the course of a month. It will be a test of Don’s ability to master his beta. And with a willful, just-of-age wolf like Fern—who balks at the idea of submitting himself mind, body, and soul to any alpha—getting through all three Offering events will truly be a test. But will Fern’s slowly awakening beta-instincts help him embrace his role as beta, or will he manage to somehow break free of Don’s alpha hold over him?
The Offering is the first book in the Wolves of Wereduin series. To the best of my knowledge, there will be at least one more book and fair warning: though it seems like the Don/Fern relationship is a foregone (however fraught) conclusion, this book ends on a cliffhanger before all three events of the Offering ritual are completed.
The story is organized into seven lengthy chapters with occasional breaks. Everything is told in first person perspective from Fern’s point of view, which gave me a pretty good idea of Fern’s values and priorities. Fern’s values, however, seem at odds with the sentiment conveyed in author’s notes in the front matter of the book; it clearly states that wereduin “culture is vastly different than ours, and what they perceive as acceptable would be absurd by our standards.” For me personally, whatever “vastly” different culture Fern’s society entails, it was EXTREMELY clear to me that Fern himself has values that seem in lock-step with contemporary Western culture. But rather than bitch about how mismatched my expectations were compared to what the story actually seemed to contain, allow me sum up: My advice for readers who enjoy shape-shifter/werewolf/mated stories is to SKIP the author’s note and be prepared for A LOT of non-con/dub-con sex (and a few references to mpreg). And the so-called light at the end of the tunnel is that the more sex Fern and Don have, the more Fern feels his beta instincts to submit to whatever Don wants AND the more Don’s “prowess” works to break down Fern’s walls. So instead of Fern just being reluctant or unwilling, he experiences moments of being with Don where it’s not all bad. Until the moment is over and Fern invariably reminds himself that he hates Don with some variation of “don’t think of ‘stupid’ Don” in a positive way.
Then there is Fern’s group of friends. Each of his three closest friends is from one of the other species: human (Alphonse), vampire (Lucien), zombie (Shamar). These characters unfortunately reminded me of nothing so much as avatars for pop-culture tropes. The zombie best friend, for example, has green skin and dirt in his hair. The vampire quasi-frenemy is as aloof as he is wealthy and dresses in comicall frothy attire. Incidentally, this super mixed group also seems to hold the same values as Fern. In other words, their values seem to align with contemporary western ones rather than the “absurd” rules the author’s note warns about. For me, it further dampened the experience of being in a wildly different culture and just made the story about Fern’s struggle to be free.
The writing suffers from frequent errors. One of the most glaring was the habitual use of “submit” as a transitive verb when referring to the alpha/beta power dynamic. For example, Don says to Fern “Do you want me to submit you right here?” There were homophone errors (whicker/wicker, sow/sew, lightening/lightning). I also wasn’t fond of how Deville chose to add details in some situations. One example is how Don is engaging in an MMA style fight-for-money and while Don and his opponent are duking it out, blood gets on Fern’s t-shirt. The momentum of the fight is interrupted for Fern to narrate that he bought the shirt at a live event for a band that’s no longer touring and how would Fern ever replace it, and at least the blood was only on the sleeve and not the chest. Just a total mood killer, especially given this is a scene where I had a sliver of hope that Fern was finally starting to either go whole Stockholm Syndrome for Don or was actually starting to care whether Don got hurt or not.
Overall, I was mostly annoyed at myself for having read the author’s note and taking it so much to heart because Fern is clearly modeled after values vaunted in our world, not the one he comes from. I was disappointed that the first book ended before there was much progress in Fern either successfully getting away from Don or succumbing to Don’s alpha-ness and his own beta-ness. This, I think, leaves a lot of heavy lifting for the next book. For me, this book ultimately boils down to a pretty repetitive series of “willful Fern does what he wants, societal rules and the personal safety of him/those around him bedamned!” and “Fern gets rescued by Don, and who then fucks Fern to show Fern who’s in charge.” The whole thing is sort of a train wreck: it’s a mess, but you just can’t not look. If you’re a die-hard shifter/werewolf fan, if you’ve got a bestiality kink, if anything I’ve desribed above dings your bell, I think you’ll enjoy this. If dubcon/noncon is a hard no for you, my advice is to stay away.