The False Moon (Immutable Moon #2), Jacqueline Rohrbach
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: NineStar Press
Tags: Predominantly Werewolves + Vampire, Ghost, Other. Dark & Psychological, Horror, Humour, Ensemble Cast, Subplot Romance, Series
Length: 316 Pages
Outsiders call them False Moons, but Garvey’s kind call themselves Moondogs. Moondogs hunt. Moondogs live free. Moondogs stick together. Moondogs are half-breeds, not completely accepted by those who consider themselves “true wolves.”
Garvey is a Moondog to his bones. He and the unexpected get along just fine. That’s why when Molly, the vampire who should be a mindless eating machine, turns out to be an oddity, Garvey decides to hide her away instead of killing her.
But that leaves him needing another vampire to carry out the schemes of the two powerful werewolf rivals he’s caught between. What’s an improvising Moondog to do other than find some poor sap and create a new one?
Garvey might be a Moondog to his bones, but to defeat his enemies, he must navigate their world and be the stupid, subservient beast they expect. At least on the surface. Behind the scenes, Garvey intends to turn their plans against them and bring the two greater packs to the brink of war.
**This was my Book of the Year for 2018 at On Top Down Under Book Reviews, so I bought this review across to Dark Hints where I think it suits the blog better.
I grew up on a diet of vampire books and movies. If werewolves were in the mix, they were generally more primal creatures – we’re talking B&W TV (when it arrived) and early books and movies. While the vampires used their seductive wiles to lure their prey, the werewolves were dark, brooding, shadowy creatures, nothing like the romantic shifters that roam the pages of romance books nowadays. I enjoy a good romance shifter read every now and then, I do, but I prefer darker and bloody paranormal. One of the things that attracted me to The Worst Werewolf, book #1 in this series, was the promise of a darker werewolf based universe. Which it was. They aren’t fuzzy weres, part of alpha/omega shifter verses, with romantic alpha MCs who are more mediators, lovingly using their power for protection of their bonded mate. This series can be harsh. Love, even basic kindness, generally takes a backseat to pack, and even though book #2 definitely has its moments, The Worst Werewolf was a more overall bloody book than The False Moon. It also set up a solid platform for the personalities, events and different packs that don’t like each other but inexorably entwine. The False Moon fleshes and rounds out characters, motivations, and emotion more. And while Garvey and Tovin are absolutely essential characters to the series, and I’m cheering for them, it’s an ensemble cast that fills the pages. At the end of TWW there were some cryptic happenings that promised so much more. That ‘more’ started unfolding in The False Moon.
Once again, this series book is split into parts. During these parts there are different locations and POV shifts to and for corresponding packs and individuals. Whether that be Garvey in relation to what is driving him on behalf of the Moondogs. His wife, a cover for the Moondog pack because Garvey is gay and gay is not something, it appears, the pack likes. Ahhh, the wonderful Mercy. She uses a Southern twang and charm, complete with coiffed hair and nice nails, and she is his co-conspirator in death and mayhem.
“Shoot. If this don’t beat all. I’ll get a tarp in the truck. You, mister—” She poked him in the chest with a short, pudgy finger. “—you owe me cameos at bake sales and competitions. Don’t think I won’t collect.”
“I will be there with bells on, love.”
While Mercy gathered up killing supplies, Garvey briefly wished she were the man he had met out on a Wisconsin lake on a day when the snow made the world white and flat. But the snow had melted, and the land had the curves of a woman.
I mean, the love involved in helping your significant other with all things their job, their life, even if you are best friends and not lovers, is a powerful thing. I can respect that. ‘Hey, honey, let me help you hide the bodies’ – very practical, very loyal.
Garvey’s feelings for Tovin, aka Sweet Treat, the guy he picked up online (book #1) and created a life-changing date from Hell with, were potent from the beginning… but you can’t let sentimentality get in the way. One day Tovin’s working in sales, looking for a little adventure to show his horrid ex he’s not boring, to the next day being a bloodslave in the thick of inter-pack machinations that go off the rails. Adventurous is overrated. Now he’s ensconced, grudgingly for most, in the Isangelous pack. A place where he has to speak as the Alpha Guardian’s pet and socialise with people who have drunk the Kool-Aid about being given immortality after serving as bloodslaves. Tovin is an introverted, geeky human who absolutely hates social interactions, knows the Isangelous lies about immortality for its humans, but now has no choice but to make nice and pretend. He also has a ghost that’s chosen to hang out with him, giving him guidance and support, as cryptic as it is, and he’s not sure why. He’s not even sure for a while if she’s real, but he’s named her Destiny anyway. Destiny is the perfect side kick for my boy Tovin’s dorkiness and humanity. In a sea of apathy to anger, Tovin is suddenly a spreader of moral and shiny. No one in the Isangelous pack believes him about the ghost, they simply believe him to be an even weirder outsider than they already thought; particularly as he now has conversations with someone or something they can’t see. But he’s Eresna’s so they humour him…to a degree. Then there’s the door that whispers for Tovin to touch it and the corresponding death records for people before him who have done just that.
Yuri and Nadine, from the Isangelous pack, have their own issues. Yuri’s a smart wolf. Pack has always, always come first… but then there’s Tovin, a human she has a special attachment to. Pack is pivotal to all the wolves, no matter which pack. Doing her job well has always been of paramount importance to Yuri. She’s been valued for her skills and smarts by Eresna, the Isangelous Alph and Queen, for so long. After Tovin’s ‘extraction’ went badly, and Eresna’s been stuck with him, Yuri has been blamed, ignored, and demoted. No matter that it was Garvey who imploded that ‘extraction’ with all its ripple effects. Nadine is now her boss, and while they have a deep and abiding friendship, something that could have been more, it stings that the reckless and free-spirited Nadine has Yuri’s old position. However, it never gets in the way of their interactions and how they feel about one another. Yuri also knows Tovin has the death records, and this knowledge, her connection to Tovin as well, starts some events in motion that have the ability to create a great deal of havoc.
Amber, another human, and Lavario, werewolf, are at the Varcolac pack, but neither are Varcolac. Both have some highly emotional and challenging moments. Amber’s family were slaughtered by the Varcolac, on Kijo’s command, and the twenty one year old is incredibly hurt and angry. Lavario, who raised Kijo, had no choice but to take Amber in. She’s not happy with Lavario but he’s increasingly hard to to stay mad at. The revenge she has so badly wanted shifts regarding who it is she wants to hurt. Although it’s not particularly simplistic to say her anger has completely shifted. It hasn’t. She thinks of her family every day. Hears her younger sister in her head about where she is and what’s happening to her and what she’d say to Amber if she were still alive. She’s in danger with the Varcolac because Alpha Guardian Mazgan barely tolerates her. While Lavario is intimidating to the pack, and it affords her a degree of protection, it isn’t simple to break down just how Lavario sits within the structure of the Varcolac in a review.
Most wolves who met Lavario slunk away, avoiding eye contact. Those who gave him orders—sweep the floor, drive me here, pick up the dry cleaning—did so in a voice shimmering with hesitation. For good reason. Lavario obeyed patiently, but the look he gave them said, I’ll remember. I’ll collect.
There’s a presence making itself known around Amber as well. Something no one initially understands, but as they do, it increasingly puts an even bigger target on her. Lavario tells her he would kill her if need be, but, in a great and meaningful dichotomy, he also offers her a knife that would kill him if she has to fight for her life. Even with the anger, partly because of that, partly because of daddy issues, Lavario and Amber start a sexual relationship. Their relationship is the most complex of the book. To be honest, anyone Lavario has had any real connection with ends up in a complex relationship with Lavario – Kijo, Garvey, Amber.
He slowly shook his head. “She remembers the woods. You were sloppy.”
All semblance of calm vanished. She transformed. She lifted her lip to show the tips of her fangs. “You don’t understand, Lavario. Amber is very dangerous.”
“Is she now?”
The highly ambitious and aggressive Kijo is now separated from Lavario. She also finds herself being challenged regularly because of Alpha Guardian Mazgan, who has a slash and burn mentality to everything. Either Kijo is by his side and bows to him, something he wants and she won’t do, or she’s taken out by a pack challenger – yeah, good luck with that. Kijo scares Mazgan as she has the brutality and the ambition to take the pack away from him but he fancies her too, but rules are rules when they suit him. Mazgan is a hypocritical coward and I hold a grudge against him. Yes, I do realise he’s fictional – but Hell hath no fury like a reader angered. There are quite a few pack plots occurring and Kijo is involved in numerous situations that are critical. She is power-driven, observant and strategic. Having been raised predominantly within the aggressive Varcolac, she likes the power-plays, always believed she hated the Boo Hag – Isangelous – mentality of pretty and fine things, but learns that nurture can be a bitch. She remains badass throughout both books, usually something I love in female characters, but I find it difficult to like Kijo. While I respect her keen brain and her sheer power and tenacity, she’s too cold for me. However, absolutely anything is possible with her because she’s seriously calculating and enigmatic. She’s also had one interesting father figure and brilliant political and character mentor in Lavario.
Meanwhile, Garvey has several things going on and he’s up to his neck in most dilemmas. In the midst of it all, he cares deeply for Tovin. Maybe there’s a mate connection, maybe it’s just plain old pheromones, lust, and opposites attract. Tovin hasn’t shown his hand exactly, he’s kind of in the middle of new paranormal activity and survival. However, they finally get to be intimate with one another, and I was so happy. And, who knew? Garvey has actual feelings, and for more beings than I thought possible. Occasionally in book #1 his feelings would peek out, but now he’s thinking about Tovin more and more.
“Do you love Tovin?”
Uncomfortable with the personal question, he toyed with a sarcastic response. Typically, Moondogs didn’t share feelings with Boo Hags. In this moment, he wanted to believe they were deathmates if not packmates. “I think so, yes. It’s hard to tell. I want to protect him, and I want to be near him.”
“He’s so moral.” You’re not was heavily implied.
Yes. Well. Garvey isn’t the most moral and I love him for it. Jerald was such a well deserved, violently loving gift he served up. *Sigh. He also has a vampire on a leash, Molly, that he’s brought through a portal to wreak a little destabilising mojo. His pack, the lesser esteemed Moondogs, or False Moons, are culled every decade – and here comes decade-culling time. Garvey isn’t sitting back waiting. Molly is not your typical scheming and seductive vampire, nope, she is totally ruled by her need to feed. Hungry really is her catchcry. She also says one word only from any sentence Garvey uses, and she’s fond of our Moondog. One Word Molly: I found her adorable, in a totally creepy way. I shouldn’t, she’s a walking death plague, or creator of a lower type of undead, but not one single being is anything less than three dimensional in this series, and Miss Hungry seems to be developing a creeping sentience.
I could write a thesis of a review on this book and barely scratch the surface of the world and characters. I’ll finish up by saying that this is a fantastic paranormal series. It’s intelligent, well written, well edited, involved. Each chapter has the best heading, like Dead Asshole Scientists and Annoying, Unless Pets, which always fit the corresponding chapter perfectly. The humour is jaded, noir, hilarious, often youthful. Lavario and Eresna have been around for a while, they’re mature Davis-Crawford pro-level dry and snarky, but they sometimes react in ways that surprise me. The romance aspect of this series is developing nicely but it’s part of a bigger picture. This isn’t MM, it has het sex, for one, as well as gay and fluid moments. It’s paranormal. It’s horror. It’s humour. Romance is a subplot.
Being a character obsessive means I need good, strong characters to enjoy a book. Every character in this series is perfectly nuanced and multifaceted, reflecting lighter and darker aspects of who they are, their very nature as they move through this ‘verse toward their impending and fateful personal and pack intersection. The False Moon is absorbing paranormal reading, adding a progressive and balanced layer upon The Worst Werewolf, which you do need to have read first. I absolutely love this series, so very glad I found it, and I’m sure that whatever comes next will be one hell of a ride. I can’t wait. 5 Stars.
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