If you’re following in order, The Cain Chronicles comes after the Seasons of the Moon series, which follows The Descent series. You don’t need to read The Descent series first, but I recommend you read the Seasons of the Moon series because The Cain Chronicles is a continuation.
In The Cain Chronicles series, S.M. Reine brings back Rylie, a teen who was bitten by a werewolf and is now the leader of a pack living on a ranch. She was helped with her transition from bitten to werewolf by an older teen named Seth, whose family hunts werewolves. But Seth is trying to prevent Rylie from becoming a werewolf permanently. He fails and must accept her for who she is because he’s in love, which means going against his family’s tradition of killing werewolves on sight. Seth’s brother Abel is one of those killers. Abel had been bitten by a werewolf and was able to prevent the curse from affecting him forever, which is why Abel is extra kill-y. That is, until Rylie bites him and now Abel is werewolf permanently, too.
At the core, The Cain Chronicles is a love triangle young adult novel. You may have your shocked face on right now, because none of that sounds like something I would read. However, S.M. Reine handles her YA with care, never smoothing things down so they are on the safe side. There is violence that is descriptive but pulls back from being gratuitous. She never pretties things up, including the transformation from human to werewolf, which includes a character’s teeth and nails falling out and their skin exploding away in a burst of blood. There’s sex, but it’s off the page while remaining sexy.
Thankfully, adults play a role in the teens’ lives, including Rylie’s Aunt Gwen, James Faulkner (from The Descent series), and Scott White (from Seasons of the Moon series). Rylie doesn’t run around without asking advice from an adult or trusted fellow werewolf, and fortunately the adults don’t automatically hate Rylie, a feature of YA that I can’t stand (the condescending, won’t-listen, judgmental parent).
Now, back to that love triangle. Why didn’t I hate it? Seth is Rylie’s first love from when she was in her mid-teens, and his care is shown through longevity and presence. Abel, though, is Rylie’s mate when they’re werewolves, and he’s more possessive and protective. Both make sense given that Rylie goes from human to wolf. When Rylie and Abel greet each other, they sniff and rub faces, even as humans. Reine doesn’t try to make a wolf sexy; it’s a big dog and I appreciated that realism.
The characters continue to act their age, as they go from teens to young adults thinking about the future. They put themselves into a corner when things get hard, such as thinking marriage means “grown up” and learning that’s not how it works. But the clever aspect of the love triangle is that brothers Seth and Abel are similar. Reine doesn’t pull this yin/yang, good boy/bad boy nonsense. They simply love Rylie in different ways, and because they have similar traits, the triangle makes sense and creates genuine emotional churning in the reader.
An interesting addition to the series is the newly-developed Office of Preternatural Affairs, a government agency designed to identify and keep tabs on all non-human beings. In The Descent series we learn there are demons, angels, and witches, and with this series we’ve added werewolves and zombies. The world is populated by paranormal characters, but they don’t all know that about each other. Humans are typically Americans thinking everyone is human and learning they’re wrong, like if you suddenly learned ghosts are real because you encountered one. Reine has beautifully set up the next series, The Office of Preternatural Affairs, which I assume is where we’re going to read from the other side’s perspective as they organize and investigate non-humans.
An excellent series that’s dark, adventurous and a quick read — most of the books are novellas.