When I dig into Urban Fantasy, I prefer shapeshifters to be part of the background, blending in, doing their thing to propel the plot while other supes shine as the star players. I rarely invest in series which focus on shapeshifters as the mains – just not my thing (although Kate Daniels has proven to be a nice exception). This book is pure shapeshifter material – instead of werewolves, you have werepanthers, and there’s no other supe in sight. Still, the back blurb promised an entertaining story that seemed right up my alley – a woman as the protagonist, prized because she’s rare, forced home to a pack she’s trying to escape because of danger tearing through her newly established safety net.
The shapeshifter world in the Rachel Vincent novels are woven creatively enough; society has no idea the creatures exist behind the human faces and swift justice is delivered to those who dare risk the species unmasking. There are divided territories led by one alpha male, who is part of a family unit. Werepanthers are usually born, almost always through the alpha pair since females are so rarely made.
At the timing of the story, there are six tabbies total in population of the civilized surrounding societies. A rogue is on the loose killing kidnapping and killing the valuable females. Faythe is forced home not to just to stop her from becoming another casualty, but to help the pack track down the culprit.
There’s a lot working in the favor for the first novel of the series. Rachel Vincent’s writing style is enjoyable to devour – her writing has humor when it’s needed but gives proper respect to serious moments and solemn tragedy. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s intriguing. The ending is an especially fierce one because the story doesn’t shy away from brutality.
I didn’t enjoy hunting scenes much – again, not a shapeshifter fan, but I do like how werepanthers are portrayed. The family bond is strong and I loved the parents and brothers. Having two strays in the house with their own backgrounds made interesting reading. Of course there is to be a love interest she left behind – could you expect different? – and Marc is worthy as a lead. He’s alpha, yummy, although a little too serious sometimes. I especially liked her mother and father and their different outlooks in shaping everything.
Faythe…well, not as likeable. She’s courageous, sarcastic, and comfortable in her own skin, but she’s also overly abrasive, bitchy, and smug. I really, really hate smug. That is one of the biggest pet peeves I have for real life folks, and this pet peeve bleeds into books to include paper people. That smugness is a turn-off, and I still think she went too far with the foot bite. I mean, ouch? Sure, get irritated, but being smug about it later and still not remorseful? Dialogue is well written in general, but I don’t like her outlook not her lines. Nope, not liking her.
Even if her personality didn’t fit what I like reading, the story was intriguing, with side characters fun enough to make the story work. A large plot obstacle that opens the first book is already resolved at the end of it, which surprises me as I thought it would continue to be an issue longer. For a first novel to open the series, it’s relatively large in length, but action keeps up enough to make it readable. There IS of course emotional downtime and mental exploration, but the author thankfully avoids making it angst-filled.
Oh, and the covers for all books in the series are spiffy. They have an urban, grunge appeal.
“Kicking ass is surprisingly therapeutic”
“Anyway, I was the one in real danger. I got cornered by a pack of wild sorority girls in the food court. Apparently it's mating season.”
Shifters Territory Pride Map | Source: Author Site