In February’s doldrums, where the sky is perpetually gray and I rarely leave the house, the monotony can feel like end-of-times. Cobbling together pantry dinners, completing jigsaw puzzles layered up in sweats. The coziness can turn stale. It reminds me of the first apocalypse movie I ever watched as a child, aimlessly channel-flipping during a similarly dreary season.
It was The Omega Man (1971) on Turner Classic Movies, a bleak tale of the Last Man on Earth navigating a plague-ridden world (based on the book I Am Legend). So many apocalypse stories place us at the precipice, tossing us into the early decline. But stasis must be achieved at some point. I remember wondering at The Omega Man’s credits: what happened later?
Fleeing Fate by Sabrina Day offers a juicy take on this question of after. Should our social order end by disaster or disease, what might become of humans? If some survive, how will our world be remade? This speculative romance transported me away from my wintry blues.
While I zoomed through this spicy book, know that there are a few content warnings. Some characters respond to trauma from past abuse and the threat of sexual assault, and though not heavy in detail, they are key themes for plot and drivers of action.
The novel opens with twenty-one-year-old Ava and her teenaged brother Shay burying their mother. Their father has sequestered them away from the world, disciplining them with a bizarre religious doctrine. At the end of the first chapter, Shay transforms into a wolf to protect Ava from bad men her father brings home. The siblings escape. Their first encounter with the outside world is Gabe, the sheriff of the town Ava finds while driving away recklessly. Recognizing Ava and Shay’s trouble, Gabe brings them to the up-and-coming pack of The Hallows. Mal, the pack leader; Hayes, the negotiator; and Aiden, the enforcer. All late twenty-somethings are ready to lead the community.
Along with Ava and Shay’s escape and eventual connecting with Gabe, the story also begins from Mal, Hayes, and Aiden’s perspectives, preparing to transition into their fathers’ leadership roles later in the week. Shay cannot transform back to human form, and Gabe, Aiden’s boyfriend, realizes he must bring these lost siblings to the pack for help. Over a meal, Gabe explains The Hallows to Ava while gathering information on her Father and the nature of their cultish compound. In Fleeing Fate’s post-cataclysm world, individuals develop into alphas (some of which shift into wolves), betas, and omegas. Though Shay has developed into an alpha shifter, Gabe assures Ava that she is a beta like him, the oil in the engine of alpha politics. But upon arriving to the Pack House, meeting other alphas and omegas at a special event, Ava feels unwell. Is Ava transforming, too? To what extent are Mal, Hayes, and Aiden willing to protect their new guests from a rebel faction across the border? Are Shay and Ava guests, or something more?
The Fresh Take
I’m an avid romance, horror, and speculative fiction reader. But smashing these genres together? I’ll be the first to admit I’m still dipping my toes. While the Omegaverse genre is new to me, a quick internet search reveals a deep well I’m just now finding. So I cannot speak to Fleeing Fate’s telling of an Omegaverse, I loved Day’s take on shifter lore.
From Courage the Cowardly Dog’s weremole to the kindest professor in the Series that Shall Not be Named, werewolves are human-creatures in the shadows. A person transforms by the monthly full moon, by a disease-bearing fang, or by the fate written in their genes. And the transformation, usually temporary but incurable in its repetition, risks unmitigated violence. They are to be feared, reviled, and killed with a silver bullet. Werewolf stories I’ve encountered recently touch on the loneliness of the afflicted person (“City Wolf” by Abigail Oswald), the uncontrollable frenzy of lycanthropy (“Rubber Teeth” by Caleb Bethea).
But Day’s new world flips the myth. Not only are alphas leading society, but in The Hallows, the shifter alphas are revered protectors of the community. They relish in their wolfiness, gathering for Pack Night as the moon swells and carving out a space for betas and omegas who choose to call their territory home. These human-wolves are the cornerstone in a fragile new world.
Spookiness Rating: 👻👻
Ava and Shay escape their father’s abusive cage, the true horrors of which Ava reveals as she adjusts to her new home. We feel the siblings’ shock at the world beyond the fences, their fight or flight responses that drive most of their early decision-making through the crescendo ending. The terror resides in the interpersonal trauma that Ava, Shay, and the pack face, not anything inherent in the shifters’ supernatural abilities.
Spiciness Level: 🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶
Aligning with the Omegaverse speculative romance genre, dominance, pack loyalty, and belonging thread throughout the spicier scenes of the book. And, like more traditional romances, these peppers have bite. Tension (and attraction) escalates as Ava falls for each member of Mal’s pack and Gabe assesses his role as beta in the pack making this a great read to melt the seasonal ice away.
Lauren Kardos (she/her) writes from Washington, DC, but she’s still breaking up with her hometown in Western Pennsylvania. Her work appears in Emerge Literary Journal, Rejection Letters, The Lumiere Review, and other fine publications. You can find her on Twitter @lkardos.