Gail Z. Martin, aka Morgan Brice, continues to be one of those authors whose work excites me to distraction. Among the plethora of titles she has written, she is also responsible for her universe of the paranormal, which includes such series titles as (writing as Gail Z. Martin) “Deadly Curiosities,” “Spells, Salt, & Steel,” and “Night Vigil.” Writing as Morgan Brice, we have “Treasure Trail,” “Kings Of The Mountain,” and “Witchbane.” Each series has its unique charm and tone making them wildly fun to read. They can also be quite thrilling and suspenseful, as has been in her “Fox Hollow: Zodiac” series, and with her latest novel of the series Again, she explores the wild, and even humorous aspects, of Shifters.
Picking up shortly after the novel Huntsman, shifters Russ Lowe (wolf) and his boyfriend Liam (fox) helped rescue Noah Wilson from a Huntsman because Noah is also a shifter (lynx). Drew, the younger brother of Russ, has taken an interest in Noah, who is recuperating from his captivity. Unfortunately, after spending several months with Drew, Noah has to leave the community of Fox Hollow (populated by a variety of shifters, psychics, and even witches) and return home to Ottawa, Canada. Noah is a successful photographer and independent television producer of documentaries and nature shows and needs to return home to fulfill his job contract. Neither Russ, nor Drew, are happy about this, but they maintain constant contact through phone calls and video chats. Noah has just a few more days with his assignment, after which he can return to Fox Hollow for some well-earned rest and recreation. However, during his last night, he witnesses (and captures on film) some hunters chasing Bigfoot, killing the beast, and taking the cryptid as a trophy. The hunters also realize that they’ve been caught in the act and are now after Noah as he tries to make his escape back to Fox Hollow.
When I first started reading Again, it felt like this was a YA novel. While many other books by Brice have a certain fun darkness to them, Again almost felt lighthearted. This is due to the amusing manner she characterizes shifters. While this is not the first book to feature them, the somewhat split-personality nature of shifters is heavily on display. It’s as if two spirits exist in one body that can shift from human to animal, and the psyche of each animal is at the forefront of that specific identity. Drew’s wolf constantly talks to him and gives him side-eye looks when the two of them disagree (the dialogue takes place in the shifter’s mind). One interesting bit of dialogue that takes place very early in the book has Drew thinking how much he likes Noah and that they could really get along. Drew’s wolf promptly corrects him by saying, “mate.” Even the wolf thinks Noah is handsome and that he smells good, even if he is a cat. The wolf is then reminded by Drew that Noah is a lynx and that he should behave. That’s only the beginning because as the story unfolds, the dialogue between human and animal, whether with Drew or Noah, becomes quite funny at times and serves as a tension breaker when the story gets very serious with Noah trying to escape his pursuers. Noah’s fear and Drew’s ever-growing concern and desperation are also told so well that anyone who has ever felt that sense of worry can relate, allowing the reader to become emotionally invested in these characters. As with all of Brice’s stories (and even those written as Gail Z. Martin), the suspense builds to an action-packed moment that had me gripped and unable to put the book down.
Another aspect of Brice’s books I love is her settings. Fox Hollow is loosely based on Long Lake, New York, but it’s not just the place that makes it special. It’s the people she places there. While her stories have generally been very LGBTQ+ friendly, the variety of different shifter species also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the overall LGBTQ+ community. It’s almost as if everyone who makes up our community can find some type of representation in the variety of shifters and non-shifters who make up the population of Fox Hollow. The result is a fictional community that will make readers wish such a place existed.
Again was a big surprise for me. It started much lighter in tone than many of her other books I have read but ended with the same excitement and romance that I have come to expect from this wonderous universe she has created.
Given that Again is a same-sex male romance story, it would only be fair to say that there are plenty of scenes of an explicitly sexual nature and should be read by those 18 years and over.
For its whimsical shifter dialogue and surprising thrills, I give Again 5 out of 5 Cryptids!