Guardsmen are always matched in a bonded pair. The Protector can shift into a weredog, and the human partner is his Handler. They are incredibly rare and highly valued, but people also fear them for their mystical abilities. No Protector in living memory has outlived his Handler - until Alex Taylor.
Now a widower, Alex lives a lonely half-life and faces day after day of grief with no hope for happiness in the future. When he unexpectedly bonds with the young and vibrant Handler Marcus Stephanek, Alex is angry and unwilling to leave the memory of his former Handler behind. He pushes Marcus away and tries to distance himself from their bond. But then a mysterious villain who has been secretly shadowing Alex for years sets his plan in motion. Alex and Marcus must learn to trust their bond and love each other, or risk not only their own lives but the lives of those closest to them.
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Narration is great
3 Stars (Story = 2 Stars; Narration = 4 Stars)
I would have actually rated this much higher if it weren't for two things: gross stupidity and the ending. Would you like to hear of this stupidity? Well, then, kiddies, gather up close for I have another story to tell you...
Our story actually begins really well. Alex Taylor is a "Protector" guardian, able to shift into dog form. Alex is super special for a great many reasons, some of which are that he first presented as a guardian at eight years old (well before other children present), he bonded with his "Handler", Theo, earlier than usual as well, but the most special thing about Alex is when his Handler (and Husband) Theo is murdered, Alex doesn't die with him.
You see Handlers and Protectors usually bond sometime in their late teens, but no later than early twenties, and a kind of empathic telepathy develops. There is also a biological and neurological need for daily physical contact (doesn't have to be sex) so the pair bond is strengthened and if a Handler dies their Protector dies as well - though if a Protector dies the Handler may survive.
I enjoyed the world building. It's actually quite interesting most of the time.
After Alex survives the death of his Handler everyone waits for him to die. Thing is, he doesn't. So over the next three years while Alex mourns Theo he's tested regularly to give the scientists some idea as to why he survived. On one of the testing weekends Alex notices the scent trail of another Handler, Marcus Stephanek, and realizes this means he's going to bond with another. This is not joyous news. Alex is gutted by this.
Marcus is ecstatic at having finally found his bond-mate, being that he is twenty-six, well past the age Handlers normally find a Protector to bond with. He's happy until Alex makes it clear that he's not a welcome bond, that Alex doesn't want Marcus.
It's difficult because the pair is now bonded, no matter that neither is happy about it, and Alex is determined to shut Marcus out.
That's how the story goes for a good three-quarters...with us drowning along with Alex in the grief of having lost his husband, of having this interloper in their home, and struggling against the bond, and we are additionally grieving with Marcus over being bonded to a shell of a Protector after wanting nothing more in his life that to find his other half.
All of this was really well-written and flows well. It's frustrating and maddening, and I wanted to find Alex and beat the shit out of him...but I got it. I got that he had years to build a life he never thought he wouldn't have with Theo, only to have it ripped away and for him to still be there, and then this other guy all happy and, "Yay! We're together now!" So I can see how that would not go over well.
But then at 72% the story takes a turn for the stupid...and I just can't take it. Won't. It never rectified itself for me.
The only reason I didn't DNF was because I was enjoying Paul Morey's narration. I don't know yet if that's a good thing or not.
Dystopian sort of Shifter romance
Yes, I planned on it. The story is captivating and passionate.
The knotting scene.
Oh yes, I go an look for books he has narrated and I'll purchase an audible just because he is reading it.
I was a little annoyed with the angst level at times, but overall, I really enjoyed the story.
Alex Taylor was the youngest Protector in the history of the Guardsman to manifest his abilities at just eight years old. He’s always known who he was and what his destiny was, and knew exactly who Theo was, his bond mate, his Handler. After surviving the death of his Handler, Alex is lost and for the first time in his life, doesn’t know who he is anymore without Theo.
Highly accomplished Handler Marcus Stephanek is an anomaly as well at the ripe old age of twenty six, he has yet to bond with a Protector. He has more degrees and accolades than anyone else his age and yet, he’s unfulfilled in his life without his bond mate. Fate has a funny way of answering your prayers, and Marcus is certain he’s been screwed when he bonds with Alex Taylor.
Alex goes out of his way to avoid Marcus and try to push him out of his life, he feels like he is betraying the memory of Theo to even entertain the thought of a life with another Handler. Marcus bends and sways and takes it all in stride, as much as he can, in an effort to prove to Alex that they can be a successful team. Handler and Protector, bond mates, partners, lovers and friends.
This was a very emotional, angst filled story of how life continues to evolve and change and even the deepest rooted traditions continually evolve, especially when science and man stick their fingers in the pot. As the story progress you learn that Alex, Theo, Marcus and so many more are just pawns in one man’s sick and twisted attempt at fame and glory. But the core of the story is the relationship between Marcus and Alex, how they go from angry bond mates to friends and eventually, lovers. How they get past their own ideals and visions of what their life is or was supposed to be, and learn to make their own life together.
My biggest, well my only complaint about this story was the angst. There were a few times I wanted to bang my head against the wall, or bang Alex and Marcus’s heads together, at the very least! But the society that West created with the Guardsman and the Institute, the history and the science was spectacular. This was basically a dystopian novel in my opinion with the way everything was conveyed and written, and I love a good dystopian novel. The push and pull between Alex and Marcus was all encompassing, all be it annoying, but when they finally stopped fighting and started working together, they were lethal.
Morey’s narration was spot on as usual. I could actually feel the pain in Marcus’s voice as he tried everything he could think of to break down the tough exterior Alex has placed around his heart since Theo’s death. Only to be tripped around every corner. Lots of drama, emotion, angst and action make up the words of this odd romance. Definitely a must listen though, I was completely captivated by the world West created from start to finish, to spite wanting to spank Alex and Marcus a time or two.
- Tams (TTC Books and more)