‘My name is Alexandra Layton. Or I thought it was, at least.
I thought my family was pretty normal. Wrong again.
I thought my father dying a mysterious death was the worst thing that was going to happen to me during my summer vacation.
But yeah, you guessed it: Wrong. Again.
Here’s what I do know: Werewolf bites are freaking painful. Finding out your entire life has been a lie is more painful. Trying to piece together the truth when you’re suddenly surrounded by weird strangers who all claim they want to ‘help’ you? That’s painfully near impossible. But if I’m going to protect what’s left of my family—which I absolutely am—then I don’t have a choice but to embrace the sudden absurdness that is my life.
It will mean learning to harness strange new powers.
Learning to trust some of those weird strangers—including Kael, a werewolf who’s equal parts secrets, sarcasm, and sinfully good looks.
And ultimately, it will mean accepting the truth about my family and the role they’ve played in a centuries-long war within the shifter world. The role I'm supposed to play. Because the magic tied to my bloodline could save the entire human world…
Or it could unleash a monstrous force unlike anything it’s ever seen.’
A YA novel, Descendent is the first book in a, currently, six book series with the first four about the characters mentioned in the above blurb: Alex and Kael (which I’ve been pronouncing as ‘Kale’, like the green). Firstly, how cool does the blurb sound? Hooked. Instantly. The writing style, Alex’s voice, is what drew me in, plus the end where talks about her bloodline either saving or destroying. In this book we’re talking werewolves which I always have a soft spot for. Vampires, I can take or leave them - mostly leave them - but I love me a good werewolf story.
It’s written in first person, from Alex’s point of view, which means we only find out about events through her, so as the story builds and Alex’s knowledge builds, so does ours. I both like and hate this as I’m impatient but seeing the story unfold from Alex’s point of view meant I got to care as she did, feel as she did, and know as she did. Ultimately, I felt like I was Alex and was highly invested in her outcome.
The first book definitely has an emphasis on building characters and building the problem that has to be solved - namely an issue surrounding who Alex really is and what she means for the werewolf world. I’m obviously not going to say what that is as, you know, major spoiler for the plot but trust me, it’s quite interesting and I didn’t see it coming (mainly because you read the book as Alex so we don’t get to see all the clues and hints from other people as we only have Alex’s mind).
I love all the characters which is very rare! Some of the so called ‘side characters’ - as in, not Alex and Kael - were incredibly satisfying to get to know. Vanessa and Will are friends with Kael, also werewolves, and it is clear the author doesn’t see them and treat them as a ‘means to an end’. They are developed and rich and offer something to the story itself and its main character, Alex, which means I fell in love with them too. Also, their roles in the ‘Shift Chronicles’ develop over the series (small spoiler: I cried with one particular storyline involving these characters). I have to mention Vanessa as I really love her; she just appears as this caring, graceful, honest werewolf who is passionate about the people she loves.
Kael. Where do I start? I think it pertinent to know that I am a big sucker for the stereotypical over-masculine, brooding, protective type which fits very well with the commonly known werewolf attributes and personality. Convenient. I can be harsh when it comes to werewolf stories because of this. Whilst I like the domineering and protective type, I’m not a doormat and I don’t expect the heroine of the story to be either. The guy can be all of the above but the gal has to have that something about her too. This is where it gets tricky to please me. I like it when there’s an element of ‘will they won’t they?’ but very obviously the two are meant to be together (I rarely read anything without a romantic thread); Descendent has this element of romance but it’s not in your face and the characters develop with the romance. I like to see the guy develop into someone more understanding, tolerant and EQUAL to the girl. Descendent has that. I mention this because I’ve read far too many stories where the female character is great, strong and independent, until she meets this unruly werewolf and suddenly she’s all mushy, weak and needs the man to save her. Yuck. I can’t deal with love at first sight when that happens. I can deal with an element of knowing they are the one (or at least hinting at this) but I need the characters to get to know each other, develop for the better because of the other. Otherwise, it’s just fuelling unrealistic and often dangerous perceptions of relationships. Having said that, it’s fiction. About werewolves. So…
I’ve not said much about Alex because it’s told from her point of view and so a lot of potential spoilers. I will say however, for a seventeen-year-old who lost her dad and suddenly finds herself in the middle of an intense situation which she has quite a lot to do with (say no more), she handles herself quite well. Young? Of course. Naïve at times? Most definitely. But this creates a sense of realism to me as not many seventeen-year olds are equipped with the life experience to be otherwise. She has a spark inside her that makes me want to know more and this is key to a good story, one these authors deliver well.
Was the story gripping?
If the above hasn’t convinced you that I like this book, then I’ve done a bad job. I loved this story because it was everything I enjoy about reading. The character roles are executed excellently, they develop friendships and relationships that appear authentic and in line with the happenings in the book. The author dangles teasers just when you need a bit more, showcases a bit of romance, just when you need a bit more, so that everything is not all open and revealed at once. It is, for want of a better word, a journey.
I went on to read the first four books in the series and loved every single one. I cried too. Don’t let me put you off with that though; I cried was because I was so deeply invested in the outcomes of ALL characters that I was simply not going to get the ending I truly, unrealistically, desired. However, I would never recommend a book that was purely evil in how it finished. AKA killing everyone off. That’s just not fair. So rest assured that I, somewhat happily, accepted and enjoyed the ending of the series.
The series continues from a new character’s point of view: ‘the daughter of a legend among wolves’. I’ve yet to read these just because I needed some emotional space after Alex and Kael’s story ending (I’m an emotional reader and get way too invested, it’s a weakness I have no intention of working on).
Descendent is the perfect book if you’re looking for:
✓ Werewolves (and who isn’t?)
✓ Believable characters that develop with the story (in the context of the paranormal world of course)
✓ Young adult romance
✓ Strong female characters
✓ A storyline that dangles carrots and teases plot twists throughout
I would highly recommend this to any and all readers who enjoy young adult urban fantasy novels about werewolves and paranormal romance. An easy read (I mean this positively - I read for enjoyment and escapism) but one that will likely keep you awake longer than you should.
This was a story I really enjoyed and I hope you do too. If you read Descendent let me know what you think!
Book 1 in The Shift Chronicles - Descendant
Book 2 in The Shift Chronicles - Syndrome
Book 3 in The Shift Chronicles - Sacrifice
Book 4 in The Shift Chronicles - Ascendant
Book 1 in The Canath Chronicles - Blood and Wolf
Book 2 in The Canath Chronicles - Silver and Shadow
*As usual, images are now my own. Front covers taken from author website.