S.M. Reine sets all of her books in what she calls the Descentverse. We may end up in Heaven, Hell, a neutral Haven, a pocket of nothingness, or on Earth — it’s expansive. But you need not fear; jump into any series and enjoy. I read the first series (The Descent) and loved it. Definitely for adults, the emotional tide pulled me under, and I became devoted to Reine’s work. The second series in the Descentverse is Seasons of the Moon.
Seasons of the Moon has four books, each written with a young adult audience in mind (check out Reine’s content warnings and age suggestions). The protagonist is Riley Gresham, a fifteen-year-old girl who is sent to summer camp in the mountains for three months while her parents work out a messy divorce. At camp, she is immediately ostracized, causing her to keep to herself. It’s all strange to Riley; she’s a city kid who attends a private school, is strictly vegetarian, and has an inhaler. One night, after an incident, Riley leaves her cabin and runs into the woods, only to forget what happened. But there are four silver scars running down her chest. A werewolf attack, we learn.
Enter Seth, a teen from the boys’ camp on the other side of the lake. He procures some books from his camp about a legend of werewolves being created by the gods of the mountain and plans to help Riley not permanently become a werewolf. While they work together, Seth and Riley develop romantic feelings for each other, though this is not a sappy book. And Seth isn’t upfront about who he really is. There are six specific moons during which Riley can either become a werewolf forever, or resist and stay human — though it’s incredibly hard.
S.M. Reine takes readers from the first book in which Riley is a scared, lonely teen to the last book, in which she gathers other werewolves as they escape a special forces team armed with silver bullets and swat gear. The characters are unique and interesting, never sounding unlike teens, but never predictable. Even though Riley is a werewolf sinking her jaws into deer (and sometimes people), she still wants Seth to ask her to the formal dance.
The tension in Seasons of the Moon comes in two places: Seth’s family is a band of werewolf hunters. It’s what they’ve always done, and Seth’s brother, Abel, is hunting Riley regardless of his brother’s feelings. Secondly, because Riley does kill people if Seth can’t contain her during her changes, she believes it’s best if she kills herself, leading her to carry around a gun with a single silver bullet. I was surprised by what happened when other characters discovered her hidden gun.
These two areas of tension were pulled in just the right way, making me so involved in this series. As the story progresses from Riley leaving camp to moving to a ranch with her Aunt Gwyn because things are not good at home, to Seth’s family tracking Riley across the country so they can exterminate her, the characters develop significantly. Riley’s relationship with Seth, Abel, and herself changes. Not surprising, given the way life demands she make hard choices every time the circumstances change. Once again, Reine had me reading way past bedtime.
And it’s not just the characters that kept me captivated. The descriptions of Riley’s werewolf transformations are amazing. This isn’t some holy-crap-look-at-my-furry-hands Teen Wolf transformation. Riley’s werewolf snout bursts out of her face, ripping her skin and sending blood spraying. Her teeth fall out, her hair falls off her head, her nails get loose and come off. The change is always, always painful for Riley. I never tired of reading descriptions of her transformation, and was incredibly freaked out the time she got caught in a change, somewhere between human and creature.
Amazingly (yet, at this point, unsurprisingly), Reine drew me in and made me think about the Seasons of the Moon series even when I wasn’t reading. Adult me loved the books, and I know eighth grade me would have eaten them up, too. The author beautifully appeals to readers of a wide age range. Another excellent addition to the Descentverse.