Friday, February 11, 2011

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1)
Skinwalker is the first book in the Jane Yellowrock series by Hunter. It takes place in New Orleans, though a slightly darker New Orleans than the one we all know from Mardi Gras. There's a rogue vampire in town, and it is killing indiscriminately. The vampire council don't want the mundane authorities to start digging too deeply into vampiric affairs, and so they have hired Jane Yellowrock, a vampire hunter, to come take care of the problem for them.

One immediately thinks of Anita Blake, the Vampire Executioner, but Jane Yellowrock starts out just a little harder, a little tougher, and far less innocent than Anita. I got the nagging feeling a couple of times in the early going that there might have been some short stories or novellas written about Jane that I'd missed, as she seems to spring into being with a long and shady past. Some of that emptiness gets filled with flashbacks later on in the novel, but some of it is still left hanging. Perhaps in a sequel?

Jane Yellowrock is a skinwalker, someone who can change shape from human into whatever creature, more or less, she desires. She seems to desire, more often than not, the shape of a hunting cat, like a cougar or jaguar, but she carries with her an assortment of teeth and claws from various animals, and when she shifts she uses the "snake" of their DNA to determine her new form.

We're all probably familiar with the idea of lycanthropes having a "beast" that rises to the surface when they change into were-form, almost a second entity that lives within them. In the case of Jane Yellowrock's beast, it might quite literally be true. It appears that sometime in her past, she forcibly possessed the body of a hunting cat, and the spirit of that cat, with its simple motives of kill, eat and mate, continues to live within her even in her human form.

Jane seems to be very much of a bad-ass loner, though she has a couple of off-camera friends who are like her family. That's one of the back story things that I was left wishing I had more information on when the book concluded.

One thing that a lot of writers leave out of their lycanthrope stories is an explanation of what happens to the body mass of a shifter when it takes on a shape smaller or larger than its own. Hunter takes care of this by having Jane use boulders and rocks as a "mass sink". Just a little detail that I thought was cool.

This was definitely a good yarn, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, as soon as I loosen the purse strings enough to buy it.

No comments: