Two rules I live by: Never admit to being a shapeshifter on a first, second, or third date with a human. And never, ever bring along a zombie apprentice wannabe on a demon kill.
This book pushed almost all my UF-Fangirl buttons. It even has an artful (non-cheesy) cover.
Demons? Check. Shifters? Check. Zombies? Check. Vampires? Check. Weird social system? Check. New creature invented for series? Check, several times.
Vicky Vaughn is a demon slayer, but not the Buffy-The-Vampire type. There are different forms of demons and they mainly attack people in their sleep, where Vicky battles them on a dreamscape setting. The town has been quarantined as the 'Deadzone' since the plague that hit and turned many alive into zombies. Vicky's boyfriend, Kane, is a werewolf who fights for the rights of all the paranormal. She lives with a roommate vampire. You can't get more paranormal than this story character-wise, or this plot.
Vicky herself is a shapeshifter, but not the Sam kind from Sookieverse. She can only shift three times per month, although it's not restricted to the three day lunar cycle.
How the author conceived the world fascinated me - the paranormal are not trusted and are cursed by various laws. Werewolves have to be locked up in compounds with gates, guns and guards for the three day lunar cycle. Vampires are cold and lethal but out in the open, perhaps against their will. There is a designated goon squad invented to police the supernatural, and not all cops on that team are pleased about it.
Vicky rocks as the main character - I'm tired of female protagonists with a chip on their shoulder the size of a boulder, who snap at everyone who comes near them, thinking they have to prove something every time they blink. She's reasonable so her sarcasm works, and she's compassionate so she's not a melodramatic pushover. She's the only one of her kind in the town (yay) but she isn't so bad ass it's unrealistic and eye rolling. She knows her stuff but she's still learning.
Juliette as the roommate vamp is...odd. As expected with the age old vamp types, they don't have much feeling or personality. They intrigue, however, in the small spaces they're shown. The zombies are like their former selves, reanimated corpses killed by the virus, subtly rotting. If they were injured when dying, they keep the ugly blemishes and dismemberments. Their personality is the same as before, so they aren't the mindless brain-eating monsters of typical lore. There is the issue of their appetite, though - they consume large quantities, and any blood in the area can send them in a mindless, blood-thirsty frenzy.
This book is fun because of the humor that works naturally through Holzner's appealing writing style, not hokey, complex enough with it's supernatural world building, and pacing is kept swift as Vicky has to battle several obstacles that shove themselves in her way. There's a mini love triangle potential, but it doesn't take away from the story or the characters themselves.
The only thing I didn't like was Tina, the apprentice. She's supposed to be funny on an annoying teenager style, but she got on my nerves and I hated her. Besides her screwing up the dreamscape fight, she then actually stole a sword and plays it off like it's not a big deal. Couldn't stand her, but have a feeling she'll be a series regular.
Already bought the rest of the series - can't wait to lose myself into more of this intriguing supernatural world.
As a series starter, it's almost drool-worthy.