The Queer Wolf collection kicks off with "Wolf Strap" by Naomi Clark. Ayla gave up a lot to be a lesbian, like her entire family, who raised her to believe her role was to get married and pop out a lot more werewolves for the good of the species. But when a child, a member of her family pack, is killed she and her partner Shannon head back to her childhood home. Its clear that things have changed since she left, but how much have they changed in this city where the human and wolves used to live in peace? The only flaw in "Wolf Strap" is that it's too short. The plot and setting could have held a full novel and while the pacing doesn't feel rushed it's hard not to want more of everything Clark has to offer.
"Moon Sing" by Laramie Dean is a beautiful love story between a wolf and a witch. Acting as a metaphor for being queer in a straight world, even Drew's pack can't accept him falling for someone not of the Breed. It doesn't have much plot outside the romance, but that alone is taken to a haunting, yearning level that's purely magnificent.
"Wolf Lover" by Michael Itig is a cruder, more raw, sex-centered tale of fetishism and, of course, werewolves. Nige is an impatient, sex-charged gay man with a passion, shall we say, for werewolves. So much so that he lures them to his home and tricks them into shape shifting during sex. But the man he meets at a club for those trolling for werewolf hook ups turns out to be something else altogether. "Wolf Lover"gives readers a more raw look at the psyche of a gay man, but doesn't feel cliché, preachy or stereotypical in the end.
"Shy Hunter" by Ginn Hale centers on David, scent dog and queer man, and not sure how to balance the two. Until he falls for a man who is being stalked by the monster who attacked David and turned him into a werewolf. This is another excellent tale, with equal parts action, emotion and mystery.
Anel Viz's "The Stray" is the lightest tale of the book so far, making nearly every canine joke and pun, without being completely cheesy as it tells the story of a couple making a major commitment to each other.
"New Beginnings" by Cari Z focuses on the only pack that accepts gay wolves in this paranormal world and a bitter curmudgeon of a wolf, Michael, who finds himself attracted to and depended on by their newest rescue. But exile wasn't enough for Tori's family. They want him dead and Michael must keep him safe in this action-adventure-romance.
Jerome Stueart's "Where the Sled Dogs Run" is another lighter tale, focusing less on the romance angle and more on creating a sweet sense of wonder. In this story the werewolves are a group of shamans, immortal, reluctant and shy, who want to reconnect with the world around them rather than hide from it, but they don't know how. It fits the anthology, but it could have been found in a number of other fantasy-themed magazines just as easily.
"Pavlov's Dog" by Andi Lee shifts straight back to hardcore erotica, and is nothing but. This tale is all set up, Josh and Caleb have just been approved to start their own pack and decide to celebrate. It's not bad, there just isn't much story to it.
Charlie Cochrane's "Wolves of the West" is the most civilized story of the book, a tale of a pack that meets in an English museum for what is far from a mess of drooling, carnivorous monsters. Here Rory and George, who put the pack together and have run it for quite some time, work to create a haven for both their fellow queers and werewolves and must work to keep certain indiscretions from public light. It's an amusing, but meaningful addition to the collection's theme.
"Family Matters" by Moondancer Drake is another example of a solid piece, featuring a lynx and wolf lesbian family and pack, that feels less like a short story and more like an opening to a book. This piece could easily be stretched and expanded, in fact there are fight scenes that are glanced over and while werebadgers, lynxes, Fae and witches are all mentioned they aren't very fleshed out. Drake is a good writer though, so one can only hope more than this story comes from her world.
In "Wrong Turn" by Stephen Osborne a young gay man finds more than he bargained for when he stops at a bar for directions and a drink and ends up smack in the middle of a werewolf tift. This falling in love story is simple and sweet, with a wrap up that seems to come too soon.
"Leader of the Pack" by Robert Saldarini is a historical werewolf tale, told by flashback, about a pair of men who survived World War II. Being steeped in the time period adds a weight of interest and credibility, but again, the tale's flaw is its brevity.
"War of the Wolves" by Charles Long is the first to include (by a brief mention) an intersexual character. This tale also takes a more fantasy-angled approach, embedding a strong sense of the surreal into a story of people coming together, not just trying to find their place in the world, but willing to fight for it.
Lucas Johnson's "Flip City"is a more traditional horror take on werewolves, a cliched take, unfortunately. The first real hiccup in the book the lead is not gay, so much as a borderline rapist and killer. Luckily the speed of this one is stuck on fast forward, burning through the story with little depth.
In "Night Swimming" by RJ Bradshaw, Joseph is indulging in a secret night swim when a wild-living werewolf finds him. They catch scents and Todd, the wild-wolf insists that he can smell that they are meant to be lifemates, and also proposes that they begin their life together by spending half the year in the city and winter helping Todd's pack in the woods. After some thought Joseph agrees, they hash out the details, and unfortunately that's all there is to this tale.
"In the Seeonee Hills" by Erica Hildebrand leads with a lesbian who contracted lycanthopy from a lover who got a bit too rough in bed. Claire is new to the paranormal world and caught between two packs who want to use her for ill means. It's part Romeo & Juliet and part something all it's own. Like some of the other tales there is room for more expansion, but it doesn't feel unfinished or sped up for the sake of the short story form.
"A Wolf's Moon" by Quinn Smythwood is certainly different. But three pages in I had no real clue what was going on or what the characters were hinting at, which left me feeling completely disconnected from the story and the characters. A depressingly weak end to this collection of tales.
Overall, there is a lot of good in Queer Wolf. It manages to represent the scope of urban fantasy, from a queer angle, though it leans heavily toward m/m paranormal romance. I really would have liked to see more f/f or even a transgender or bisexual story or two. From a genre point of view I'd have liked to see more mystery, traditional fantasy and even horror-based tales. But that's what second volumes are for.