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Ilya, the youngest son of a Moscow oligarch, is so deep in the closet he’d find Narnia if that weren’t a decadent Western story. On Christmas Eve, his brothers lure him into the forest, intending to murder him and erase the shame he inflicts on their family by existing. However, the attempt is interrupted by Volyk, a wolf who carries the blood of the ancient oboroten’ —shapeshifters. Ilya never imagined a Christmas gift like the handsome wolf, but accepting what Volyk offers will have consequences that change both of their lives forever.
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2014 Advent Calendar package “Celebrate!”.
I’m a bit of a Grinch when it comes to short stories, since normally my cold grinchy heart loves to wrap itself around a nice long novel, but even the icicles around my soul can melt a bit for a nice holiday story.
This one felt very imaginative, set in contemporary Russia, but out in the countryside as Ilya prepares to celebrate the holidays with his father, his two older brothers, and other visitors. Ilya is also trying to keep his sexuality under wraps since being gay is less legal and very much less safe. Unfortunately for poor Ilya, some secrets can’t be hidden for long…
What I loved most about this story was the setting. I dug that the author set it in modern-day Russia and really enjoyed what Russian language or cultural bits slipped into the narrative. It felt very natural and set up the scene really well (and felt very refreshing and new!)
At 25 pages (or around 6,500+ words), the story felt too short in my mind, and the conflict in the second half kind of peters out. There didn’t feel like a lot of tension in that section, and the inclusion of intimacy in such a short story felt like it took up valuable real estate that could have been filled with more plot or climatic events (of the non-sexy variety). For me, the story had a really strong start, and I was thrilled to dive in, but I wish there was more to it.
I think the writer took on a neat direction though, and again, I loved how she described and included the setting. I would look forward to checking out a longer work by her, and seeing what she can do with even more space to play.