Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Skinwalker was a good introduction to the world of Jane Yellowrock, skinwalker. She knew little about her past, only that she was part Cherokee, and that she could shift into the form of animals. And that she shared her consciousness with the soul of an animal, who she called Beast. Jane makes a living as rogue vampire hunter, and she's very good. Now she's in New Orleans, hired by a prominent vampire who happens to run a prostitution house. And this job is going to a very complicated one.
Jane is a very likable main character, which is a real must in urban fantasy. You want someone who you will want to come back to visit with in a series, who can kick some serious butt, but isn't annoying. That's Jane. She's tough and a smart aleck, but she's also soft in some ways. I liked how she felt so warm and fuzzy toward her friend's daughter, and how she cares about people. She has her strong opinions, but she is open-minded enough to think outside of her prejudices. I also liked that while she doesn't sleep around, she can appreciate a good looking man, and there are quite a few of them in this book. I have to say I am not enamored of Rick, who Beast seems to like just fine. I liked Bruiser (Jane's nickname for George), who is the blood servant for one of the most prominent male vamps (and he wasn't shabby either). Yeah, there was a lot of man candy in this book. (Reflects back on reading this book with a silly grin on her face) Where was I? Oh....
I am a bit bored with vampires, although I do and will read a good vampire story. I actually liked the vampire elements in this book. I do like the whole vampire society and politics aspect, and it was well-done here. I actually learned the difference between a blood servant and a blood slave, right along with Jane. I thought the vampire ritual that was enacted upon a gravely wounded vampire was very interesting. I liked that the vampires in this story respond to Christian holy symbols, such as the cross and holy water, along with silver.
Along with the vampire mythology, and more importantly, the shapeshifter aspects struck me as very interesting. Jane actually has to think about scientific concepts when she shifts. She has to account for her mass in comparison with the animal she is taking the shape of. She also has to eat a lot of food to fuel her shifts, even raw meat in animal form (yuck). As a scientist, I appreciated this. I thought Beast's viewpoint added an intriguing element to this story. At first, it was hard to read, since her thoughts are very simple sentences, conveying sensation mainly. After a while, I got the hang of things, and I really liked seeing the world through Beast's eyes. It's also interesting how she sometimes wrestles Jane for control of her body, and the reasons for that are complicated and add another layer to this story.
New Orleans as a setting never fails to enthrall me. It's such a fascinating, mysterious city, rich with history, and ripe with uncanny energies that make it a great place to set a supernatural novel of any type. It's clear that this Ms. Hunter loves this city, and she brings it life with a loving touch in this story, showing both the elegant beauty, the rich cultural aspects, and the seediness that lurks below the gaudy exterior. I can almost believe that New Orleans is run by ancient vampires, with their own intricate society, forming an intrinsic foundation for the infrastructure of this old, beautiful lady of a city.
By far, my favorite element of this story was Jane's Cherokee heritage. I found this very fascinating and I feel like Ms. Hunter did a good job bringing this to life. I liked that Jane is a heroine who is of color, of an ethnic heritage we don't often get to see in a main character. And it adds necessary depth and texture to this story, since that forms a very important part of the overall plot, part of Jane's journey, and a significant part of the mystery element in this novel.
I was very satisfied with Skinwalker. I will definitely be following this series (which is good since I have the next two books). I think Jane is a great main lead, and I like pretty much everything about this first book in the Jane Yellowrock series, the skinwalker elements, Beast's personality, Jane's Cherokee heritage, and the action and sometimes horrific urban fantasy elements. They all combined to make a very enjoyable read that distinguishes itself nicely from the other urban fantasy novel series. Recommended.
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