Review – The Unleashing (Call of Crows #1) by Shelly Laurenston

The Unleashing cover image

Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: 31 Mar
Reviewed by: E
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Kera Watson never expected to face death behind a Los Angeles coffee shop. Not after surviving two tours lugging an M16 around the Middle East. If it wasn’t for her hot Viking customer showing up too late to help, nobody would even see her die.

In uncountable years of service to the Allfather Odin, Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom has never seen anyone kick ass with quite as much style as Kera. He knows one way to save her life—but she might not like it. Signing up with the Crows will get Kera a new set of battle buddies: cackling, gossiping, squabbling, party-hearty women. With wings. So not the Marines.

But Vig can’t give up on someone as special as Kera. With a storm of oh-crap magic speeding straight for L.A., survival will depend on combining their strengths: Kera’s discipline, Vig’s loyalty… and the Crows’ sheer love of battle. Boy, are they in trouble.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

So, I have a confession to make and it really isn’t much of a hidden secret. I absolutely adore Laurenston’s writing. She is imminently rereadable and provides me with a mood lift and lots of laughter regardless of her penname (she also writes at G.A. Aiken). I have hooked my entire family on her body of work so when I found out she was ending her Pride series we heaved a collective sigh of sadness. However, as news about this series came to light and I realized she was revisiting a world with a heavy Norse influence my eagerness and anticipation grew once more. I also have to admit I LOVE myths and legends so premise behind The Unleashing was starting on several positive notes. I am extremely happy to say when I finished reading, I promptly had to send my family a “you will love this story” text.

Laurenston is known for her characters who do not hold back with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, who are passionate, dramatic, and yet highly capable of accomplishing amazing things when they decide there is a need. This story is no exception. Kera spent most of her adult life as a Marine so when she decided to become a civilian again she struggled finding meaning without the close-knit camaraderie and sense of purpose/being inherent in the Marines. Rescuing an abused dog, Brodie, gave her a reason to start interacting with the world again. Don’t worry – Brodie is still around at the end of the story, changed a bit **grin** but most certainly still around. Kera developed a comfortable routine working in a local coffee shop with some regular customers. Then one day after she decided to intervene in a nasty situation, Kera was given a second chance at becoming part of an organization with a mission. She just had to figure out the mission, understand how she played a role, and try to instill some good order and discipline amongst a set of women called Crows, who acted like their namesakes.

As Kera was trying to understand how her life changed and why she had two constants from her former life, Brodie and a regular coffee shop customer, Vig, who apparently wasn’t a fellow military veteran suffering from PTSD but something else entirely. Vig came from a long family line of Vikings and Valkyries so while he was an expert in fighting and crafting premium weapons, when he wasn’t doing either of those he reverted to his shy, quiet introverted self. For a while, he frequented the coffee shop so he could see Kera and work up his courage to ask her out but she died before he could so he took a chance and intervened, asking Skuld, one of the Norse Fates, to consider making Kera one of her Crows. After Kera’s transformation, he never really expected her to remember him with anything close to fondness but her reaction when she first saw him was more than anyone could have imagined.

I really enjoyed watching the characters interact. Vig and Kera went from casual acquaintances who had a hidden attraction to friends and more. He taught Kera about being a Crow as much as a non-Crow could. He also taught her the basic skills she would need to handle what Skuld had granted her. Kera on the other hand taught Vig some sense of moderation and person to person interaction. In addition to their growing relationship, Kera also started forming if not friendships a mutual tolerance for the other Crows as undisciplined and organized as they were. The other Crows were very amusing. They squabbled, argued, and fought amongst themselves but refused to let an outsider come between them even the “new girl” as Kera was called. As much they were anti-organization, it was great to see how they acted when they were on a mission. I think one of my favorite character driven scenes involved a certain trip Kera and Vig took for her to learn how to fight as a Crow. From the surprise destination, to the “lessons”, and the celebration afterwards I had such a blast reading it.

As Laurenston built her world, she also included a rather intriguing series of building bad events which I think set the stage for the overall conflict. Bits and pieces come out during this installment along with some rather intriguing sounding if not exactly nice mythological entities (I need to do some research) who are going to make the Crows and other supporters of Odin do some work to keep balance. Right now I think they have some catching up to do because The Unleashing ended with an enemy closer than the Crows think. I am really looking forward to the next installment and finding out what Laurenston has up her sleeve for this new world. I am fascinated by the Crows and other Clans and really wonder how they will manage to work together or if they will remain divided and fall.

I give The Unleashing an A

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