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.
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By Shelly Laukenston
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Shelly Laurenston
All rights reserved.
She didn't know what woke her up.
The lightning and thunder crashing outside the bedroom window? A rare thing in the beginning of an L.A. summer; so maybe. Or the fact that she was in a strange bed? Or the fact that she was naked in a strange bed?
Or maybe it was the squeak of the bedroom door as it was eased open.
After more than a decade as a United States Marine, Kera didn't sleep deeply like she used to when she was a kid. She'd done her tours in the Middle East, and being prepared for anything had become a permanent part of her DNA. But it hadn't just been the enemy she'd had to watch out for. Sometimes, sadly, she'd been forced to protect herself from other Marines. Males who should have known better.
But she'd stupidly left all that behind more than eighteen months ago. Now she worked in a coffeehouse. She made overpriced coffee and sold overpriced baked goods to people who didn't think they could get through the day without their caffeine fix.
So then where the hell was she?
At the moment, Kera didn't know. She couldn't remember anything past taking out the trash from the coffeehouse because none of the wannabe actors and models and singers she worked with would get off their lazy asses and do it themselves. So Kera had done it. And then ... and then ...?
Someone leaned in close. Too close. It was a man. She didn't like men she didn't know being this close to her. It brought back uncomfortable memories. It made her muscles twitch and the hair on the back of her neck rise up in protest.
Kera could wait to see if he just went away, but "waiting to see" had never been one of her strong suits.
He didn't touch her, but he leaned in a little more. Like he was trying to see her face.
"Must be a new girl," he muttered.
"Snorri!" someone said from out in the hall. "Get moving! We're running out of time!"
Running out of time for what? And who the hell named their kid "Snorri"? Was this some kind of home invasion? And what home was Kera in? She tried to remember ... something. But her brain felt strangely hazy. Like a piece of cheesecloth was covering it, preventing her from seeing clearly.
That wasn't like her. She was known for her excellent memory and ability to quickly analyze and adjust accordingly.
God, how she missed the Marines. It hadn't been an easy life. Actually, it had been hard. Hard, but rewarding.
No, she wasn't. Kera wasn't dying.
You're on your last breath. So you have a choice to make.
Oh God. That's what she had said to Kera. The veiled woman standing by that big tree. She'd been tall and covered from head to foot in a sheer veil that still managed to hide everything. There'd been something about the woman, too. Something that radiated strength and intelligence ... and power.
God, who was that woman? What was her name? What was her—
My name is Skuld. And I'm offering you a chance at a second life. Will you take it? Will you join us?
And Kera's reply had been ... Under one condition.
Under one condition? What condition? What condition had Kera insisted upon? She couldn't remember. Why couldn't she remember?
The man glanced back at the partially opened door but whoever had spoken to him was gone.
"Demanding cow," he said, keeping his voice low. "Always ordering me around. I'll do what I want."
He turned back to Kera and that's when they both heard it. The low growl coming from beside Kera, the big body lifting off the bed and easing over her to viciously snarl at the man so close.
Kera couldn't say she physically recognized the animal giving the man a warning growl on Kera's behalf. But she still knew her. How could she not? They'd been together since the day Kera had rescued the creature. But she'd looked different then. A poor abused pit bull, missing part of her muzzle and most of her teeth. A fifty-pound female used for breeding and then left to rot tied to a truck motor near some warehouse in Kera's neighborhood.
But that wasn't the same dog now looming over Kera, and yet ... it was. It was Brodie. Kera's precious dog that she'd ... that she'd ...
"On one condition," she'd told the veiled woman. "I have to bring my dog."
Fathomless eyes had frowned at her over the veil. "What?"
"I'll take your offer ... but only if I can bring my dog. No dog, no deal."
"You're serious? You're willing to give up your chance at a second life for a dog?"
"I won't go without Brodie."
Folding her arms over her chest, the woman had held what looked like a watering can ... which seemed, to put it mildly, weird.
"You do know," the woman asked Kera, "that you're standing in front of me with a knife sticking out of your chest? Right? I send you back now, like this, and it's over. No second life. No feasting at Valhalla. No Ragnarok. You do understand that, right?"
"Not really. I don't know what Valhalla and Ragnarok have to do with anything. What I do know is that I don't go anywhere without Brodie. I'm not leaving her. She comes with me or I don't go. It's that simple."
"You'd give up everything I'm offering you for a dog?"
"She was there for me when no one else was. I won't leave her."
The woman leaned back a bit. "Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating."
But the veiled woman must have agreed to Kera's terms, because here was Brodie—true, a brand-new Brodie, but still—fangs bared, body tense, ready to strike at any minute while her muzzle pressed in close to the man, disgusting dog slobber sliding down his cheek. Appalled, he pulled back, stepping away from the bed and wiping his face while he shuddered.
Kera got to her knees while Brodie watched the man closely, and Kera couldn't believe how she felt.
Strong. Powerful. Mean.
Very, very mean. Because who the fuck was this guy in her room, sniffing around her? How was that okay? It wasn't. She knew it wasn't. She didn't know how she knew, but she knew he wasn't supposed to be here. And no one with him was supposed to be here either.
Kera looked down at her hands, curled her fingers into fists. She took in a deep breath, let it out. She was no longer just human, was she? The veiled woman had given her something more than just a second chance at life. She'd promised her power. For some that meant money, cars, expensive shoes. But for Kera it meant how her body felt at this moment. Like it could handle anything. Absolutely anything.
She looked up at the man and even in the dark room, she saw him blanch. Knew in that instant that he feared her.
And Kera liked that. She liked that a lot.
Freida moved through the Bird House hallway, ordering her Clan to move faster. They didn't have a lot of time. In and out, that's what this was supposed to be. In and out.
She realized that Snorri was still in that room. She didn't like that. Snorri was kind of stupid and had a tendency to not do what she needed him to do, when she needed him to do it. Of course, he didn't take orders from women well at all.
He was Old School Viking as the Clans liked to call it.
Freida just called it Old School Stupid.
She turned around and headed back toward the bedroom she'd left him in, but stopped when the partially closed door slammed shut all the way seconds before Snorri came crashing through it.
A few seconds later, a medium-sized, brown-skinned woman followed behind him. She was naked, thick brown hair reaching just past strong shoulders and even more powerful legs. A tattoo on her bicep said "United States Marine" and another on her upper left shoulder said "Donnie."
Freida didn't understand. The house was supposed to be empty. They'd used the theft of a powerful old ring that once belonged to Skuld to lure all of the inhabitants out. Not just one or two strike teams but all the Crows, so the entire house was empty. Then who the fuck was this Crow? Why was she here?
The Crow looked around, saw the rest of Freida's Clan.
She faced Freida and that's when Freida saw it. The just-healed wound right in the center of the woman's chest.
This one had been stabbed to death. Freida knew a stab wound when she saw one. Stabbed to death and then brought back by the goddess Skuld to fight as one of her Crows.
This was a new girl. Probably just died a few hours or even a few minutes ago.
That's why this woman was left here by the other Crows. It was too soon to take her out for battle.
Good, then she should be easy enough to—
Anders had crept up behind the woman from a room on the opposite side of the hall and swung his hammer at her head. While still staring at Freida, the woman had dropped into a crouch so Anders's hammer collided with the wall. Where it stuck.
While he tried to pry it loose, the Crow stood and grabbed Anders by his hair, yanked him down while bringing her knee up. She shattered his nose and his cheekbones with one move, then dragged him one way and the other until she planted him face-first into the wall.
Freida rolled her eyes. That's when the Crow grabbed Anders's hammer and with one pull freed it.
No one took her Clan's hammers. They were sacred. Each one made specifically for each warrior in the image of Thor's hammer, Mjolnir.
"You idiots!" Freida raged. "Stop the bitch!"
Her Clan poured from the other bedrooms and charged the new girl. The Crow hefted the hammer once ... then started swinging.
Disgusted, Freida went to handle the woman herself, but a hundred-pound pit bull walked out of the bedroom and bared its fangs at her.
This night was just getting better and better.
Kera really liked this hammer.
Of course, she didn't know people still used hammers for anything but rebuilding a house. At least not since the sixteenth or seventeenth century. But a weapon was a weapon as far as she was concerned. Besides, the hammer reminded her of playing softball in junior high and high school. She was a pretty good player back then ... and she was still a good player now, tossing these really big guys and gals around.
The men were all bare-chested with big brands burned directly into their chests. A circle with some kind of symbol in the middle. Maybe a letter. She didn't really know. It looked like a fucked-up P. The women wore tank tops, but they all had the same brand above their breasts and on part of their necks.
So a cult maybe? Kera didn't know. All that mattered at the moment was that she was being attacked and she had a hammer. The rest was pretty much instinct.
She swung the hammer again and slammed someone into the wall. She turned and swung it again, putting someone else through a door.
God, she felt strong. Her whole body seemed to be vibrating with newfound strength. It was amazing!
Kera swung the hammer again but it slammed into another hammer held by an older man. He had long white hair and a big beard. Like a biker ... or how she imagined Grizzly Adams would look in his sixties. Yet although his face suggested he was in his sixties, his body ... wow.
He locked their hammers together by the heads and yanked. He'd probably hoped that would take the hammer from Kera's hand, but she held on and let the man swing her.
First to one side, then another.
A little fed up, she dug her feet in and yanked back. She loved how the man's eyes popped wide when he was jerked forward several feet. Clearly he wasn't used to anyone being able to move him like that.
Kera jerked the hammer again, dragging the man down the hall. While she did, her dog, Brodie, had her back. Snapping and charging at anyone who got too close to Kera.
To this day, Kera couldn't tell what had possessed her to help the ugly little dog. Brodie had not been friendly. But Kera had just moved back to Los Angeles after leaving the Marines. She'd been feeling edgy, tense ... and angry. Getting work had been harder than she'd thought it would be. Her old friends from high school didn't know how to talk to her. They treated her like a freak, an outsider. At least that's the way it felt at the time. And that was perhaps what had attracted Kera to the dog. God knows, Brodie had looked like a freak, an outsider herself at that moment. In the end, it had turned out that ugly, mean little dog was willing to do anything, risk anything, to protect Kera.
And Brodies apparent reward for that loyalty? Well, now she was a tall, muscular, one hundred or so pound, beautiful pit bull with all her teeth and her muzzle undamaged. But Brodie was still willing to do anything, risk anything to protect Kera.
Still struggling for control over their hammers, Kera and the older cult member reached the end of the hall and made it to a circular area, a balcony, she guessed, that had more halls shooting from it, with more bedrooms. There were also two sets of stairs that went down at least three flights to the first floor, which she could easily see by looking over the banister. In the middle of all this was a giant crystal chandelier that probably cost more than Kera's parents' house.
Kera was in a mansion—and she was still unclear how she'd gotten here.
It was in that moment of shock that the older man made his move.
He lifted his hammer and, in the process, he lifted Kera.
Suddenly she was standing on the banister, her bare toes gripping the polished wood and her hold on that hammer the only thing keeping her from falling three flights.
Unable to unlock the heads of their weapons, the man started pushing the hammers toward Kera, which forced her back. She glanced behind her to see the unforgiving marble floor beneath her. She didn't want to fall, but the other cult members were coming at her again, swinging their hammers or just ramming them at her.
Fed up, Kera gripped her toes against the smooth wood as best she could, bent her knees, and with one good pull, yanked the old guy and his hammer over the side. He screamed as they fell, and Kera wrapped her legs around his bare chest and turned them both in the air so that when they landed ...
Freida looked over the banister and saw poor Pieter stretched out on the marble floor, blood starting to pool beneath his head. The new girl was on top of him, momentarily knocked out.
"Move!" Frieda ordered. "Now!"
They had to get out and they had to get out now.
She turned, gesturing to her people to go down one of the flights of stairs. As she started to follow, that damn dog came at her again. Frieda swung her hammer and the dog went flying into the wall all the way at the end of the hallway. It made that sound that dogs make when they're hurt, but before Frieda could reach the top of the closest set of stairs, the damn thing was already getting to its feet.
"Fuck," Frieda snarled before running down the stairs after her people.
"Out the back," she ordered. "Move!"
Frieda reached the last set of stairs in time to hear a grunt and she was not surprised to see the new girl was already getting to her feet, the hammer still in her hands.
With her legs braced on either side of Pieter, she swung the hammer at Lorens, who had been trying to get Pieter up.
Frieda hit the last step and let out a battle cry, charging the new Crow, her hammer raised.
The woman ducked as Frieda swung, and she ended up missing the Crow's head. She swung again and the woman caught Frieda's hammer with her own, the same way Pieter had caught the stolen hammer minutes before.
Great. A fast learner. Not what they needed right now.
Frieda yanked the woman, pulling her away from Pieter's body. Three of her people used that moment to pick Pieter up. He was still alive but bleeding badly and who knew what internal damage had been done. They needed a healer and they needed one soon.
Frieda yanked again and dragged the smaller woman over to her. With their weapons locked, Frieda leaned in and snarled. The smaller woman responded by head-butting her in the chin.
Frieda heard a crack and then, a second later, felt the pain as her jaw was dislocated. Not the first time that had happened, which was why she knew it had happened again.
Really pissed off now, Frieda charged forward, slamming the woman into the wall, pinning the Crow bitch there.
Barely able to swallow, Freida felt drool pour from between her clenched teeth, her mouth unable to open until she got it fixed. The sudden torrent of liquid might have disgusted the naked woman but it didn't stop her. Nothing seemed to stop her.
She shoved Frieda, the muscles in her arms bulging as she did so.
Excerpted from The Unleashing by Shelly Laukenston. Copyright © 2015 Shelly Laurenston. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 - Dazed & Confused star. I am not someone who gives up on books easily, but I have spent the last couple of hours (more like 4 hours) reading this book and I still don't really wholly understand what is going on, which in effect has slowly drained all my interest in it away. This book is set (up to where I read) in LA. The author on her opening to the reader, confirms it is a stand-alone as well as the start of a series. I am going to go out on a limb and say The Unleashing is firmly in the 'series' bracket, mainly because is hard to tell who are actually the main characters, the author introduces an absolute plethora of people and POVs from the get go, and I don't really have a clue who is whom and where or what their parts in the story are. Add too that she habitually changes the way the other characters address each other from their forenames to their surnames and I am all sorts of confused. It was like an episode of MTV Real World L.A, but with a bit of violence at the beginning, add in to that your first day at the office, where you are introduced to so many new people you forgot who most of them are by the time you sit down at your desk, and thats pretty much where I was with it. I am all for big epic lengthy reads, with lots of characters, side plots and POV's, I read and loved War & Peace so I really have no problem with that sort of writing, but The Unleashing is so, so confusing in its lack of definition, the overload of information you are given doesn't really seem relevant this early on in the book. For me, the main characters need to be established and understood and then you add everyone else into the mix. Not for me on this occasion I am afraid, I wish it was, I love a read that is different in its themes, but I need to be able to ascertain where its going and who the characters are more importantly. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, I am sorry that I cannot offer a more positive review on this occasion.
I received this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Shelly Laurenston is one of my favorite authors so when I saw that NetGalley had The Unleashing, which is the first book in her new series Call of Crows, I knew I wanted to read it. She delivers with her usual witty banter; steamy scenes; fun interesting and seriously dysfunctional characters; solid writing and plenty Mythology. What else could you ask for? After serving two tours in the Middle East, Kera Watson finds herself working at a coffee shop back in the states. Who knew taking out the trash could be hazardous to your health? When she sees a man attacking a girl in the alley, Kera can not just stand by and watch it happen. Helping others is one of her best qualities...too bad it will cost her her life. Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom is a faithful warrior for Odin. He is one of Kera's favorite customers, but he was too late to prevent her death. Vig has a way to give her a second chance at life. Will Kera be willing to take that chance? Kera is one disciplined, hard working ex-marine. Once a marine always a marine is Kera's motto. Can she use that training in her new life or will she have to learn a new set of skills? Vig got her into this mess. Can he help her find her way? Vig is the big, silent type who will tear your head off if you irritated him. Whatever you do, don't irritate him! I like Kera and Vig. They worked well together with plenty chemistry. What a great start to a new series! I look forward to reading what happens next.
I cannot believe I am writing this, but I did not like a Shelley Laurenston book. Too many characters, too broad a plot without anything really happening, too many povs and too little time with Vig & Kera. Although it technically isn't linked to Hunting Season, I'm glad I previously read it because it provided background. Disappointed
Still my favorite author! I've followed Shelly's work for years and have never been disappointed. Now I have the the toughest part of my addiction to her work - Waiting For The Next Book!!! (Dragon, Pride or Crow)
307 pages. Love this first book in Shelly Laurenston new series. Like her Pride Stories Series and Magus Pack Series this book is filled with zany people. Can't wait for the next book in this series.
Yea! New Laurenston Series! Woo hoo! This book has all the things I love about Laurenston's books-snark, humor, pop culture reference, fierce heroines, heroes that love that their women are badass. It also has the fun of being in LA, mythology, and an awesome dog. It struggles a bit with the introduction of so many characters, the setting up of the world and less of a focus on falling in love than I would like. However, it is still super fun and a good start to very good times ahead. I was given this book for my honest review. So, there you have it!
It just has to be said, I'm a Shelly Laurenston fangirl. She brings quirky humor, highly imaginative twists and blood and gore action all while managing to weave it into a brilliant storytelling. Kera Watson lies dying in an ally when Ludvig “Vig” Rundstrom comes along. He's been obsessed with the human and has visited her place of employment daily, trying to work up the nerve to ask her out. Vig can't bear to see her die so he cries out to the goddess, requesting she become a Crow. His wish is granted...and so the adventure begins. Kera has a hard time adjusting to life as a Crow and ends up turning to Vig to help her. Kera has an aversion to murder and slaughter and that's what the Crows are all about. Of course, this puts Vig and Kera in lots of contact were their chemistry can thrive. The big problem is the Crows are not considered worthy of Odin's warriors, which is exactly what Vig happens to be. There is also a big bad trying to break into this realm of existence putting the Crows and all the pantheons in the line of fire. You won't get a chance to come up for air, this story flies from the pages and right into your imagination. Lots of characters, pantheons, goddess and gods to keep straight, but its so worth the investment. Laurenston has the most interesting and amazing way to twist the mythology of old into a contemporary urban fantasy. Sassy, sizzling and steel blades, The Unleashing is a sure win for the paranormal romance, urban fantasy reader. Can't wait for more on the Call of the Crows series. I received this ARC copy of The Unleashing from Kensington Publishing Corp. in exchange for a honest review.
Great book with Norse mythology mixed in. What's not to love?
I mean c'mon! Katherine Heburn! What's not to like? The sheer effort alone to get all the character's personalities straight...wow. Nice work. Yeah...I liked it.
As always Shelly does not disappoint. I love this new series and cannot wait for more.
Great new series bringing back Shelly's Crows, but with a California twist. Love her humor and the characters! However, her quick back and forth from character first name to character last name made it very confusing for me to initially follow who was doing what. I had to read the first 100+ pages about 3 times to keep up in the story plot. It was worth it! Love love and anticipating her next book!
I miss the mane - obsessed lions, lunatic wolves, and befuddled but ferocious bears, but still enjoyed this re-visit with the Crows which we actually met previously, but I guess that original book is not considered part of this series. Still I enjoyed the fierce Vig's crush on Kera in the mortal world, his determination and flouting of the rules by calling on Skuld to save her, and Kera refusing a second life if she couldn't bring her dog with her! The sisterhood of the Crows echoes the crazy girl power of the Shifter girls in Shelly's other series, and that is always fun. Glad book 2 is out and 3 is already scheduled.
Cute read, slightly corny but really enjoyable if you want a light quick read.
I really liked this story. Yes, It took me a while to stop scratching my head saying huh? But once I got into it and understood what was going on, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can hardly wait for the next one. A female former Marine and a male macho Viking? wooohoo!!! Lots of laughs and some sad, but a totally worthwhile read.
A good break from my normal choice of book. Not necessarily a teenagers read. Does have rough language. Story moved along and kept my interest.
The best book I've read since this year started. Period. It was exactly what I needed to read. Not some cheesy romance but something paranormally funny and refreshing. Yeah, ok...if truth has to be told, there is a bit of cheesy romance here too but there are also big, bad Vikings so things are balanced for me. XD As usual the book is not at all perfect, the good part of the story starts only near the middle of the book when the real action begins and the basic knowledge required to understand things is settled for all the parties involved (means both the reader and Kera). Before that, there was a bit of confusion and sometimes I felt irritated with Kera and the other Crows -a group of women who are the harbingers of death created by the Goddess Skuld (for whom they work) and that are, after their human near-death, part of the Norse pantheon of Clans in wait of Ragnarok, the great and final battle-. They are noisy, blood thirsty, cat-fight-loving, rowdy women and Kera, has an ex Marine with OC syndrome, finds herself in the middle of a major mess. Anyway, I liked very much the way the author used the Norse mythology for her story, even if I was often picturing in my head the Marvel movies' Thor every time I was reading about the Raven Clan (you'll undersand when you'll read this). Finally, I absolutely loved Vig and Brodie but I hope Kera will grow and settle in her Crow new status because she really needs it.
So I looooove this book. I was sad when I thought I would never read a crow book again, however this book is new and brings it to a whole new level. Couldn't put it down. Dying for the next one already.
Excellent work just love ,love ,love her books never get tired of reading them!
Need to read the rest of the series
I've been meaning to read this book for awhile now but it was hearing about it on the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books podcast that helped me to make it my next read. I was in the mood for a fun romance and this book definitely fit the bill. It is probably one of the most unique beginnings to a paranormal romance series that I've ever read. Kera wakes up to find herself to have become a crow - basically she is now part of this group of strong females that have special strengths and abilities. They are almost like warriors for a god - at least that's the best way that I can describe them. How wonderful to find a book that focuses on female relationships like this one does! That being said - my one and only complaint with this book was that at times it was hard to keep track of all of the characters. There are just so many of them! I'm sure that as the series goes on I will become more and more familiar with all of the characters but I did find it a bit overwhelming at times. Enough on that though! I absolutely breezed through the pages of this book! It was such a fun read and it had me giggling at times. Especially at the beginning where Kera explains more of how she first met/what she first thought of Vig. It's pretty great but I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say any more than that. I found that I especially enjoyed the relationship between Kera and Vig. He helped her in so many different ways to adjust to her new life and I adored him for that alone. Plus there are some nice steamy scenes between the two of them and I couldn't help but root for their happy ever after! This book was very fast paced and I raced through the ending because I couldn't stop reading. We don't get full closure since this is just the beginning of this series but it was wrapped up enough to feel satisfying. I'll still be reading the second book sooner rather than later though! Overall, I really enjoyed my time with this book and am excited to have finally given this author a try. I was bummed at first to see that there are currently only three books in this series but Laurenston has other series and books that I can read as well. I just enjoyed this book so much so I want tons more just like it! I also really appreciated that the crows are all women of mixed heritages and races! Yet another thing that I just loved about this book. I'm so eager to read more in this series because of all of this. There are just so many great things about this book that have me so excited to read more in this series. I would highly recommend this book to other readers of romance, paranormal romance, and even urban fantasy. I will be picking up that second book as soon as possible! Recommended! Bottom Line: I thought that this was a really great beginning to this unique paranormal romance series! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.
I am getting the next one now
The unleashing has its unique flavor while at the same time maintaining all the elements that make Shelly Laurenston such a great author. Please keep writing.
Love this author! Amazing book!