Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Jane Yellowrock, #1

One of paranormal fantasy’s toughest heroines, Jane Yellowrock, debuted with a vengence…
A year ago Jane nearly lost her life taking down an entire blood family of deadly rogue vampires that preyed on the helpless local populace of an Appalachian town. Now, after months of recuperation, she’s back and ready to fight again. Except this time, she’s hired by those she’s trained to kill—vampires… Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. Back from hiatus, she’s hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps. Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own…

“As a vamp killer for hire, I travel light.”

I’m not sure why I took so long to start this long and recommended series, but when I was gifted the first e-book by a Goodreads member who surprised me with the sweet gesture (thank you Layla!), I read and became majorly hooked. Majorly – which is perfect for a series junkie like me. It meant weeks of binge reading a series with over ten books published in it. Not much that I enjoy more in my reading life.

Jane is an unusual specimen – she’s a shapeshifter but not a were, someone hired to help vampires in New Orleans when she usually kills them instead. Her business card and website humorously read “Have Stake, Will Travel.” While investigating the rogue and solving that particular mystery, she’s meeting the fascinating characters – supernatural and non – that make up the cultural town. In between this she finds out hidden mysteries about herself, especially long-hidden mysteries that revealed she once did a twisted version of dark magic.

Jane is humorous – she’s tough, she’s different, she’s special, and no one knows what she is – I love when the Main Characters have secrets that everyone wants to know, and when they are pursued by complex and powerful characters who she’s shying away from. A classic game of cat and mouse hunt. Between the local police department, Rick on the bike, Leo as the Master of the City and his determined bodyguard, Katie with her twisted family, and meeting a few other people thrown in – there are plenty of intrigued AND intriguing people popping up all over the place. Between exploring the town in lion form, exploring the streets in human form, spying on secret rituals by other paranormal races and awkward but enlightening vamp soirees, the book takes one addictive turn after another.

Jane is downright intriguing after all, although I prefer the books later when she’s more at peace with Beast and knows more. The Native American Folklore history and meeting Aggie with the ritual was interesting enough, although it didn’t grab me as much as the modern-day happenings did. She’s a funny main character, she’s tough and has secrets, she’s compassionate and driven and protective. Can’t complain.

Leo is yummy and fascinating, but there is a tragic turning point at the end of the book that ties into the heart of the mystery. Watching their back and forth argumentative banter is fun stuff. “Bruiser” – AKA George – doesn’t have quite a huge presence yet but he’s a well-done supporting character. Ah, those dance scenes!

Rick never made an impression on me much but he still holds some promise in the first story sometimes, even though it’s clearly he’s not fully trustworthy. Having the main character having to interact with others who are so different from her – from Katie’s ladies to the unusual and formal vamp world – makes the book even better. And of course Beast is fascinating, being in her head over Jane's or seeing them debate stuff.

Mystery wise its rich enough to earn it’s high start rating too. There are plenty of twists and turns and misleading leads, a shocking culprit, several battles, and large fight at the end that is a series changer.

Since I’ve read the rest of the series in a row before writing this review, I will point out the series improves much and keeps getting better. I enjoyed this first book quite a bit, but if there were a few things that bugged you about it, most of the things improve. In this first book the shifting seems a bit too hard on her, and I don't like so many dependent crutches being needed, but this becomes a non-issue later.

Jane’s bond with Beast grows more secure, the personalities of both emerge fully, more layers pop up on all the characters you meet in the first book that may seem slightly one-dimensional right now, and the politics and twist-turns get even more focused and twisted as the stories go on.

Book Quotes

“I figured even the most jaded and cynical inhabitant might report a bloody girl in a party dress carrying a severed head by its hair.”