Feral
by Nathalie Gray, futuristic (2007)
Ellora's Cave, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-4199-0737-1


Before I begin, I think I should warn people reading this: our heroine Eva Gregorevna Serova has sex with our shapeshifting hero Dex Solomon while he's in lycanthrope form (which is to say, he looks like a half-man half-wolf thing). Personally, I don't mind erotic stories with an anthropomorphic or "furry" theme but unsuspecting readers who will go "Eeeuw! You mean she shagged that thing that looks like the critter in An American Werewolf In London on steroids? Eeeuw!" should keep this in mind since the publisher website does not give any warning about this aspect of the story. Let's just say that this isn't your typical werewolf sexy story.

I must confess though that as much as I'm aware of and have read furry-themed stories before, my eyebrows go up at this particular scene because I don't expect to encounter such a scene in an erotic romance story. At least, I don't think we can come that far, heh. I'm not alone in my surprise though - the hero also can't imagine that she jumped his bones while he's in lyncanthrope form.

So, will you think less of me if I say I find that scene pretty hot?

A part of me is expecting Feral to be another ridiculous space-furry sex tale but instead of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 tale with sex, I get a pleasant surprise when this story turns out to be a most enjoyable and even heartpounding action adventure science-fiction tale with plenty of T&A and big kabooms.

Set in 2534, Earth and the neighboring planets have changed. A while back, some scientists conducted some experiments to create super soldiers using genetic engineering and the result was a new subspecies of humans called lycantrophes or lycans for short. Lycans don't transform into wolves as much as they transform into some man-wolf hybrid creature. However, as of recently, the lycans are like the X-Men: they are victims of discrimination by the likes of Chancellor Vanatos. Our agent, Eva, works with the Iron Enclave, a top-secret shadowy organization. She is assigned by Vanatos on a mission: accompany a team of Lycan action heroes to retrieve a stolen data clip from some ruffians on a nearby planet. At least, this is the mission that Dex Solomon and his crew believe they are carrying out. Eva, as "Agent Valen", is to ensure that none of Dex's crew return alive from this mission. But before she can carry out her mission, she realizes that she too is marked by Vanatos for termination. Oh no, can Dex and Eva put aside their trust issues and work together with the others in getting out of this mess alive?

The story starts out in a way that worries me because Vanatos is cackling like he's Ming the Conqueror in a particular bad B-grade movie but once the story gets into the swing of things after the first few chapters, Ms Gray is on a roll and the momentum and pacing never falters all the way to the last page. Dex and especially Eva aren't as smart as Ms Gray insist they are - it's easier for me to enjoy this story by telling myself that Eva not being as smart as she thinks she is is clearly the reason she's marked for termination - but they have a great sexual chemistry here and a plausible emotional bond.

While Eva won't be winning Best Agent Ever awards anytime soon, she delivers where it matters, such as being a tough kick-ass gal able to hold her own alongside the very physical Dex and she's a tough cookie too when it comes to not cracking under pressure. Dex is a very sexual character and I know I will sound like a complete creep with no life if I say I find this hirsute he-man too sexy for words. Dex is an alpha hero without the macho pretensions: he doesn't have any baggage, he's just one tough guy who wants to get the job done and has plenty of hot sex with Eva. Dex is a very physical action hero here but he has also has his attractive soft side where he cares for his crew. He is also smart enough to know when to stop mistrusting Eva. Therefore, Eva and Dex make a great team. More brawn than brain, that's for sure, but they're fun and likeable characters who fit in perfectly in this sexy action-driven space adventure. Their love scenes are very primal, which fits the untamed setting of this story very nicely. Eva is really into boinking Dex, as much as he is into her, which makes the love scenes even more enjoyable.

Ms Gray also does a great job in keeping the pace going and setting up the story so that it builds up to a grand big finale where there is a grand escape and our main characters getting to realize how much they mean to each other as well. One of Feral's greatest strengths is its ability to juggle action scenes with sex scenes and emotional scenes. The love scenes fit into the story pretty well without feeling gratuitous. The action scenes, especially towards the end, also bring out the romantic epiphany of Dex and the softer side of Eva most beautifully. The characters aren't too tortured since they are all mercenaries and agents and therefore they don't overreact or go into big misunderstanding mode. As a result, the story moves along at a very brisk and enjoyable pace with emotions, action scenes, and sex scenes all blending together cohesively.

The plot of Feral isn't the tightest and I'm sure I can find holes in it if I want to, but I'm enjoying myself too much to care. As I've mentioned earlier, this book is like a very enjoyable B-grade movie. The story has some campy elements and some rather silly moments too but the whole thing comes together as one enjoyable roller coaster ride from start to finish. Feral is just too wild - I love it!

Rating: 92


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