Long have the packs lacked a great leader. Scattered far and wide, they have hunted as best they could in the hard lands, in places where their predations could be passed off as the work of true wolves. Instead of...Prowlers.
At age nineteen, Jack Dwyer's best friend Artie is murdered. Not by humans, but by Prowlers, a group of ancient creatures whose handiwork is typically thought to be that of wolves.
But these are no wolves. They are animals, but their ability to think, their emotions and their need for revenge makes them as cunning as humans. Jack, as well as most of America, knows nothing of the Prowlers... That is, until Artie travels from the Ghostlands to tell his friend what truly happened.
I've praised Prowlers by Christopher Golden before, and I'll do it again. And again.
Instead of adhering to the typical werewolf rules - transformation only possible during the full moon, et cetera - the Prowlers bend and shape their own rules. They can shapeshift any time of the day or night. They aren't howling wolves; they are beastly beings. They can't take the shape of another person; they can't wear someone else's face, so they can't pretend to be your girlfriend or your neighbor. But they could be your girlfriend or your neighbor, and you might not know it.
Prowlers can look and walk and talk like humans. They can also think like humans, and love and hate like humans, causing turmoil within packs when they break up or change ranks or challenge each other, trying to prove who is the ultimate Alpha. And the Prowlers fight like the savage beasts they are, causing Jack and his companions to use violence when they must, in order to protect themselves and the others around them.
Prowlers is a positively riveting and inventive quartet of novels. I've read all four books multiple times, and I'm sure to read them again. And again. Christopher Golden has a wonderful knack for creating heroes readers can relate to - because, in this case, Jack is only human. Jack, Molly, Courtney, and Bill each gain and lose pieces of themselves along the way. Their motives are sometimes selfish, sometimes selfless - sometimes a little bit of both. By the fourth book, they aren't the same people we met in book one; they are smarter, stronger, some parts of their hearts and minds healed, others broken. The scars they wear - not all of which are apparent to the naked eye - show where they've been, and will be carried with them as they travel on. Throughout the series, the love triangle between Jack, Molly, and Artie is tightly strung with compassion, grief, and acceptance, always handled with care. All of the members of Jack's pack (shall we call them that?) care deeply about each other, and that translates into their dialogue as well as their actions.
I highly recommend Prowlers. The books contain all of the elements which are vital to a good horror story: intriguing protagonists who are both fallible and brave, villains who are devious and memorable, high stakes, interesting plot twists and reveals, and loads of tension and lots of action.
Read the books in order:
Laws of Nature
Predator and Prey