Raquel Lindgren knows what her future holds. An arranged marriage. A new home in Ragnarok, Iowa, with another clan of refugees from Asgard. She should be happy. But there's a mental block preventing her from tapping in to her true abilities as a witch. And she's more attracted to the best man than she is to the groom…
Fen can't believe he's falling for his best friend's future wife. As a hound, a wolf shifter, his duty lies with the pack. He's seen too many hounds destroyed by love, and he's sworn never to take a mate, never to have children of his own. He can't deny his desire for Raquel, but she deserves more than he can offer her.
Raquel's been raised to trust in magic, her clan and her destiny. But when a vengeful demon threatens to break out of Asgard and destroy the clan, Raquel learns she must trust in love if she is to take the future into her own hands.
And here is Kate's review:
Witch Bound contains an arranged marriage, a sort of love triangle, life bonding through sex, a witch coming into her own power and a strange version of Norse mythology. Through the power of great writing, Eleri Stone makes this combination compelling and not full of crazy sauce. I picked up Witch Bound on Tuesday and stayed up late Wednesday night to finish reading it, because I cared that much about Raquel and Fen.
Raquel travels through a magical portal to Ragnarok, Iowa, to meet with her future husband who she will be marrying in three weeks. She'll also become the clan witch. The story begins in a way that reminded me of some historical romances and urban fantasy books that I’ve read with a basic set up of the world and Raquel being amazed by how gorgeous, Christian, her new husband is. I appreciated though how the plot focused on the messy feelings that this set up creates, how Christian and Raquel have only known each other through letters and don’t start off easily. This was odd: apparently there was a rule that they couldn’t been in too much contact even though they’d been contracted since they were children, so it felt like a major plot contrivance and not logical in the modern world. There are lies on both sides of the arranged marriage about dangers and abilities which brings characters together and pulls them apart.
The partial love triangle comes because Fen, who as a hound bonds for life with the first person he sleeps with, and thus has decided to never mate, is immediately drawn to Raquel. She connects with him as he listens to her and tries to help her and Christian get to know each other and find ways to make their personalities work better. Fen helps her to find a way to access her power as a witch that she’s been blocked from and trust herself. Christian is a confident, handsome man who can have any woman he wants but his approach with Raquel stumbles, while Fen quickly becomes her friend.
Fen on the other hand is quiet and keeps to himself because hounds aren’t fully accepted. At this point, I kept expecting to hear about soulmates and some magical connection between Fen and Raquel but it didn’t happen. Instead the focus was on how powerful the bond that hounds form is and how awful it can be for the hound and the woman who are tied together. This formed a solid conflict of dealing with the contract for the arranged marriage, the clan’s needs and what those involved actually wanted. This was where the writing shone as Fen and Raquel felt themselves growing closer and tried to protect their feelings and those around them.
Fen knew she felt the need to prove herself. Like a cracked pot that needed to be glued back together. There was nothing wrong with her so far as he could see. She let other people tie her up with expectations, tie her into knots, just like Christian had always done to win his father’s approval.
She didn’t need to be fixed. Neither had Christian. Maybe the two of them could…help each other see that. They’d marry, heal. Be happy.
Fen very badly wanted them both to be happy.
I loved how the relationships developed and that the resolution was full of people being adults, when lies came out, they were talked about soon instead of having them hanging about. The respective families and friends were intriguing too. Ragnarok felt like a real place for all that it was full of people descended from Norse gods.
I do have a few aspects that I didn’t like and that bring the grade down for me. The world building was distracting and felt like it needed a much longer story than a book that’s 73,000 words. This story could have been easily transposed to the Viking era with some magic and it would have been as effective for me as in the present since the main conflicts of magic, duties within a clan and the particular hound magic didn’t feel tied to place.
The basis of the world is that the AEsir were sent to Midgard and are living there, but demons come through portals from Asgard, and there were other details that I started to skim. The scenes of the hunts and fights were well written, but it felt like far too much when I wanted to focus on these characters I was coming to care about. This is a difficult balance and Stone did a good job, but the world building felt too awkward compared to, for example, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books or anything by Seanan McGuire. I would read another book of Stone’s and recommend it but it didn’t leave me as satisfied as I would have liked. Another truly petty aspect for me was the name Raquel, which felt out of place for a modern take on Norse legend, but I did like her nickname of Rocky.
My final grade is B shading into B+ for the writing, characters, slow build romance, conflict that made sense, but a B due to too much world building.