Black Rook (Cornerstone Run Trilogy #1)
InterMix / July 15, 2014 / $4.99 digital
Brynn Atwood is a low-level Magus whose unpredictable precognitive powers have made her an outcast among her people—and an embarrassment to her highly-regarded father. After a frightening vision in which her father is murdered by a loup garou man, Brynn decides to prove herself by finding the killer, and stopping them at any cost.
Her target is Rook McQueen, the son of a small-town loup garou Alpha. Despite being the youngest of three, Rook is first in line to inherit the role of Alpha, a duty he isn't sure he's capable of fulfilling. When Brynn finally meets Rook, she doesn't expect the attraction that draws her to him—and him to her.
No longer believing him a murderer, Brynn and Rook strike an alliance to find her father's real killer. But when his older brother is targeted by an unknown enemy, Rook will have to choose between his growing feelings for Brynn and his duty as the future Alpha of his community.
I am one of those people that typically has to start a series with the first book. This tends to limit my book selection, so I am always excited when I see first-in-a-series announcements. Black Rook by Kelly Meade caught my attention because Meade is a new-to-me author, and this is the first book in the series— all pluses!
In fantasy books, it is typically the worldbuilding that holds the appeal, and there is plenty to get excited about here. Vampire, Wolf (or loup), and Magus have marginally co-existed, hidden from human population for centuries. Each group has a certain repugnance for the other. Even so, Brynn Atwood is bewildered, after seeing a vision showing a loup garou—Rook McQueen, standing over her father’s mangled body. What has her father ever done to the McQueen family?
Brynn has spent her whole life, feeling the weight of her father’s, Archimedes, disappointment. Archimedes holds the exclusive position as Prime Magus in the Congress of Magi—one of four such positions. He is also among the most powerful practitioner of elemental magic—the ability to manipulate fire. As the daughter of extremely powerful Magus, Brynn should have inherited her father’s powers, but she only has precognitive powers that are both erratic and uncontrollable, leaving her with no standing in her community even though her visions are 100 percent accurate.
After having the vision of her father’s death, she warns Archimedes, but he scornfully dismisses it, and her seer ability, stating that he would never put himself in a vulnerable position like that. Of course Brynn wants to protect her father from harm. And if in the back of her mind, she hopes that her ability to prevent the attack will also garner her father’s respect, then that is only natural. Now, her only choice is infiltrate Cornerstone, the McQueen’s safe haven.
Brynn attempts to disguise her own Magus heritage from the loup garou and mingle with the crowds, attending the weekly auctions run by the McQueen family. However, it is not her Magus scent that causes suspicion, but something else—something that Brynn has no knowledge of, but that makes Rook McQueen—as well as his run alpha father, Tomas McQueen, and Rook’s two brothers, Bishop and Knight—extremely suspicious:
All four loup noses in the room flared at the same time as they reassessed the woman in front of them. The soft, earthy human scent was gone, and Rook caught a strong whiff of bitter orange. Knight made a quiet strangled sound. He gaped at Brynn with something like horror on his face. Bishop came closer, attention firmly on Knight. Bishop stopped within an arm’s reach of Brynn, and that’s when Rook scented it too. Beneath the strong fragrance that marked Brynn as Magus remained the distinct smell of loup.
“It’s a trick,” Bishop said, “It has to be.”
The loup garou are composed of mostly Gray Wolves, a few Black Wolves, and one White Wolf. White Wolves are very rare. The McQueen family is unique in that it is comprised of one Gray, two Black and one White Wolf.
Only about one in 500 are born a White Wolf. Not only do White Wolves had the ability to calm other wolves, but they are the only wolves that can procreate with other loup, humans, and vampires. White Wolves can procreate with half-breeds also.
Knight was the rarest of all loup garou: A White Wolf. Loup populations were relatively small and one in five hundred had a chance of being born White. White Wolves had the unique ability to calm other loup, to soothe tensions and prevent the primal, base nature of their inner beast from taking over.
White Wolves were often treated more like precious commodities than run members. Runs were not allowed to have more than one if another run was currently without. A majority vote from the thirteen run Alphas across the country could change a White Wolf’s life in an instant, and the loup in question would have no say. . .
White Wolves had another unique ability that Gray and Black Wolves did not. While Blacks and Grays could only procreate with loup and humans, Whites could conceive children with otherwise barren half-breeds, as well as with vampires.
Black Wolves are higher in the hierarchy than Gray Wolves. If a child born to an alpha is a Black Wolf, then usually he is the heir, no matter what the birth order.
Bishop was traditionally first in line to inherit the role of Alpha, despite being born a common Gray Wolf. As the third son, Rook had surprised everyone by being a Black Wolf—-stronger, faster, and fiercer and typically the first born of a Black Wolf like their father. And as the Black son of the Alpha, he could one day claim the role of Alpha without physically challenging his elder brother for it.
Rook’s thoughts are constantly revolving around the conundrum of his role in the pack. Should he become alpha, even though Bishop, his oldest brother, has trained for this position all his life? What is the right choice for him, for his brother, for his loup garou? But soon other more important questions plague his mind, like who is trying to destroy the loup garou and what his feelings are toward Brynn Atwood:
“You might want to get a handle on your feelings, little brother,” Knight said. “Your emotions are rolling off you like a smoke signal.
Damn Knight anyway for being a White Wolf and able to sense his emotional chaos. Rook had absolutely no reason to like Brynn—none that made logical sense—but he did. He was confused and protective and angry, and he didn’t handle those emotions well. He’d scare her off before they became friends, and maybe that was a good thing.
Along with the world building, Black Rook, is filled with appealing, likeable characters. For the first time in her life, Brynn feels a sense of home, and you will too, as you get to know the appealing, close-knit McQueen family. Their love for each other shines through in every scene.
If you are a fan of the Otherworld, you won’t want to miss Black Rook. And lucky for us all, Bishop’s story, Gray Bishop, will be released in October, while Knight's story, White Knight, will be out in January 2015.
Learn more or order a copy of Black Rook by Kelly Meade, out July 15, 2014:
Leigh Davis, blogger