Title: Jungle Law
Authors: S.L. Armstrong & K. Piet
Length: 11,000 words (26 pdf pages)
Publisher: Storm Moon Press *free as part of the Love is Always Write event at Goodreads
Genre: m/m paranormal (shifter)
There is a rainforest in India that the wise poachers avoid. Few who venture in ever return, and those that do rarely come back all the way. The leopards in this forest have a protector who walks the worlds between leopard and man, but who calls the leopard kin and the human only enemy. When a frightened boy escapes from the latest hunting party to feel the protector’s wrath, he tracks the boy down, determined to leave no survivors. But when he comes fact-to-face with the exotic, defenseless boy, he cannot bring himself to end that life. Instead, what he has reviled for years becomes his constant companion. That is, until the humans dare to set foot in his forest once more.
As a reader, I do adore shifter stories and this was significantly different. I found it fascinating and sweet. Kaanan is a leopard shifter who spends most of his time in his natural leopard form protecting the jungle and the other animals. This means mostly taking care of poachers. However this time there was a young man with them who escaped, he tracks him down to find him ill from eating poisonous mushrooms, and much as he thinks he should just let the guy die, or at least put him out of his misery, he helps him. Before long they are trying to communicate, both speaking different language, and even after he reveals his true form to the boy Deshi (young man I suppose), he is accepted and Deshi instigates a more intimate relationship.
What is different is that even while Kaanan is in human form, he’s still more animal than human. His disdain for humans was rather humourous. He considers them stupid, beneath him and a thorn in his side. He’s a little confused as to why he allows Deshi to stay, but can’t help liking the boy and enjoying his time with him teaching him to survive. Even when humans come presumably searching for either the dead poachers or Deshi, and Kaanan tries to do the right thing, he doesn’t want to let Deshi go.
The story is told from Kaanan’s point of view, so sometimes his confusion at Deshi’s human behaviour was quite amusing to watch. When Deshi is angry with him and thinks he wanted to send him away, he doesn’t understand that if Deshi wants to stay, why is he pushing him away. Very much that animalistic brain that sees things in black and white and doesn’t get pouting or anger. The speech patterns and even the thoughts are pretty simplistic. He is there to protect the jungle and Deshi and eat and hunt and be a leopard. That’s his life, simple, no confusion.
So while he is a shifter who can change at will, he’s not the suave shifter of most m/m romance who’s a lawyer by day and runs in the woods once in a while. This is a whole other species that keeps the animal quite close to the surface. It was a nice change and his growing love of Deshi was kind of sweet and adorable as he accepts the human as his mate in the jungle, and his need to protect him as he does the leopards was very cute. Once in a while I thought Kaanan’s thoughts kind of seemed a bit “modern” for someone who has rarely seen human civilization (Would he know Deshi weighed 100 pounds, or what a pound was?), but I just put that aside and enjoyed it. It was a nice change of pace from the usual shifter fare.