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Review: Wolf Gone Wild (Stay a Spell #1) by Juliette Cross

New Orleans is no stranger to the weird and magical. So it’s no surprise that Mateo, a metal artist and a werewolf, is able to find a few witches there who may be able to help him. See, Mateo is cursed and unable to transform into his wolf counterpart. The wolf inside him has begun to take over his subconscious, and Mateo fears what these instincts may mean for the safety of others if he doesn’t break his curse, and soon. The witches who run the Cauldron–a popular bar and restaurant–usually don’t deal with werewolves; wolves are dangerous, and haven’t historically been friends with witches. But Evie, a hex-breaker, is compelled by Mateo’s story and the easy to see fact that his dangerous curse is alleviated by her presence. Determined to find a way to break his curse, Evie and her sisters begin looking into who may have inflicted dark magic on this werewolf.

Goodreads

What is Wolf Gone Wild about?

This first book in the series sets up the witches of New Orleans, specifically Evie and her sisters. Mateo is a werewolf and a metal artist living in New Orleans who has recently developed a problem: he cannot shift into his wolf form during the full moon, or at all. As a result, Alpha (as he calls it) has begun whispering into his mind, and is growing louder and more distracting. Mateo finally decides to seek help from the lusty and violent voice in his head when he loses control and fights with a man during a parking dispute.

Evie is a hex-breaker, meaning her special skill as a witch is for breaking curses. But she can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong with Mateo and how he’s cursed. She and her sisters agree to help him, and her natural powers do at least keep Mateo calm and Alpha quiet in the meantime.

Genre: Urban Fantasy

This book is also borderline paranormal romance, as the romance between Mateo and Evie is the ultimate force of the story, but since the plot could have taken place without romance and there was a bit of world building for the magical underground I think it veers just enough into urban fantasy.

Tropes: Pop Culture References as bonding

Honestly I would have enjoyed this book a lot more without the pop culture references. While I’m not saying that a character such as Evie can’t be an avid comic book fan or really into Star Wars, I did feel that the pop culture references were used as a device far too often. Evie forces Mateo to bond with her over love of her favorite characters and as a result a lot of discussion of things such as Reylo (yep, Reylo is a huge ship for Evie) came up. I skimmed through these conversations because really they don’t show anything about Mateo or Evie. Evie gives her pop culture opinions and Mateo reacts to them in rather boring pieces of dialogue. The only thing that came of these references that I felt helped the story were that Mateo never talks down to Evie for liking these things, and she in turn appreciates his attempts at getting excited for Star Wars movies. This could have been included without lengthy discussions of Reylo though.

Plot: Uh……..I’m not sure?

So there is absolutely a plot here, and it’s more than just the romance between Mateo and Evie. But the plot was kind of confusing and I’m not entirely sure what happened? To avoid spoilers, I’ll be vague. Essentially Mateo is cursed but he never does figure out why he was chosen to be cursed. The curse, from my impression of its explanation, could have been placed on anybody (though it might have had to be a werewolf). It was a complicated situation that felt a little too smart for the eventual villain.

The Good

I appreciated the worldbuilding we received, from the explanations and expositions being casually integrated into a story featuring characters that already know these things, to the way we actually see magic work a few times. It never felt like there were info dumps or clunky expositions. I also liked that a lot of Mateo’s and Evie’s relationship was shown and not told. The natural chemistry was there for the characters, and though we are told often by both of them how attractive they think the other is, the genuinely caring parts of their relationship were demonstrated in their behavior. There were some steamy sex scenes as well that were well written and happened naturally in the plot. I also appreciated that there was slightly more going on than the A plot. There’s also a B plot in which Evie is finding greater self confidence in the face of some damaging words said to her by an ex. She’s not hung up on him, and she knows what he said was hurtful and wrong, but the words still hurt her and she grows to move on from that. I felt this was an interesting little character development that was fun to read about.

The Okay

Though the ending confused me, I wouldn’t say it was bad or poorly done. This is a series after all, so it’s entirely possible that more of it will be revealed over time. That being said, the rest of this book felt as though it as meant to be stand alone so if that is the case the book has a problem with sending mixed signals. I just….am baffled by the villain’s motivations because they either required a significant amount of foresight, or were portrayed as more complex than they really were.

The Bad

The pop culture references were so annoying. I feel like this gets said and said again but pop culture references do not make your story more relatable or cool. As I’ve already said, it’s not that Evie likes comics and Star Wars it’s that she is constantly talking about them in a way that alienates the reader if they too do not love comics and Star Wars. I understand having nerdy interests, but the sheer amount of times Evie felt the need to talk about how much she loved Reylo made me feel like I was reading a Wattpad story not a published novel. Evie taking Mateo to a comic book store and expressing her love of comics, and having the Star Wars movie marathon could have still been plot points without Evie also ranting about and discussing at length all her minute thoughts and feelings on the characters.

Final Thoughts

All in all, this read was a pretty fun one. I think the world is well developed for the purposes of the story being told, and the side characters were interesting enough to stand by Evie and Mateo without detracting from their overarching story. While I had my occasional issue with things being written in–pop culture references especially–I liked Evie and Mateo as POV characters and I liked their chemistry together. My confusion over the ending still stands, but I was rooting for Evie and Mateo so I’m glad things worked out for them in the end. I did enjoy the writer’s style and version of New Orleans, as well as what little of the world of supernatural creatures that this book explored. I’m definitely interested in reading the next book!

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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