26 dezembro 2011

Review: Skinwalker (Faith Hunter)

Publisher: Roc (2009)
Format: Mass Market Paperback | 320 pages
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Description (GR): "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. But now she's been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie's Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who's killing other vamps..."
WARNING: Contains SPOILERS!
After the disappointment that was Bloodring, I wasn't sure when I was going to pick up this book by Faith Hunter. Still, I was in the mood for urban fantasy and a book about a Skinwalker seemed good.

It was... such a frustrating read. Like Bloodring, Skinwalker also distinguishes itself by the relatively original concept but on the other hand the writing style, the overall focus of the narrative and the unlikable heroine ruined the book for me. I'm not sure how to voice my opinions objectively so I guess I'll rant a bit about this book by listing the pros and cons. :P

Pros:
- The Concept: Bloodring had an amazing one and while Skinwalker's was a little more run-of-the-mill urban fantasy it had a nice twist when it came to Jane's origins. I loved the bit about the Skinwalkers and the mysteries behind Jane's past. I don't think I ever read much about Skinwalkers in UF books, except as villains, so I liked it. You can see that Hunter did some research on the mythology she uses (Indian legends and all that). Really good.

- Beast: sure, 'beast-speak' chapters were a little annoying after a while but Beast is a refreshing character. Especially since I didn't like Jane Yellowrock that much.

Cons:
- Writing Style: yep, writing style. Too much useless (and boring) description. I mean, I don't like books where the heroine skips steps and in one scene is doing one thing and in the next is doing something different, but this book exaggerates on the description. Some parts are so info-dumpey and boring I felt like throwing the book at the wall. I get the author had to research several things to write the book but the reader does not need to have it pasted onto the book. Descriptions of weapons (in painful detail) and its uses, descriptions of Jane's bike, descriptions of clothes and jewelry, descriptions of tea and ways to prepare tea. And not just once either. Every time guns appear they are described again and again; every time Jane drinks tea we are treated to a lengthy summary on how she brews it, what kettles she uses, etc, etc. All this seemed unnecessary and distracted me from the story, which felt cluttered with all the description. Gah.

- Plot focus: so, this book has a mildly interesting supernatural mystery going on but the protagonist does very little to solve it. She 'shifts' several times into her 'beast' form to track her quarry but mostly the book is about how Jane Yellowrock establishes relationships with some of the inhabitants of the place she is investigating (mainly she is contrary and rude). Interactions with vampires, their thugs (we are told they are all so full of muscles... and hot) and the rare human (since humans are 'sissies', 'weak' and 'prey') are what most of this book is about.

- Jane Yellowrock: ... reminded me a lot of Anita Blake. And not in a good way. She is contrary and rude to everyone, doesn't understand 'girly things' like eating salads, make-up and dresses. Of course she is of the opinion (just like most men, apparently) that all women are weak, feeble and whimsical. Oh and dumb as rocks. They can't fight, hold their own or handle guns. As such, Jane is not your typical female, no! She is tough, wears leather and of course 'fights like a man', is good at sports (we all know all women suck at sports) and can shoot guns. And likes steaks... because we all know women wouldn't dare to eat such a manly food as steaks (rare) or drink bear. Of course, in pursuit of being the perfect warrior (which can only be male... women are weaklings) she can't be sexy or beautiful or feminine.
So basically, the protagonist's attitude made me gag. I just hope she has a better side to her because well this behaviour is very outdated, I think. I'm not saying Jane had to like frilly pink dresses, but to erase all traces of female personality from the character? Maybe Hunter should write about John Yellowrock instead? O.o

Overall: this book had many of the same problems as Bloodring. The over-the-top description, the focus of the narrative and the heroine who lacks charisma (really I doubt male or female readers would identify with her). The concept is great, sure, but the execution is messy and leaves much to be desired. Still, I want to know more about Jane's world (yes, the concept and general world-building are that good) and that is why I gave it this rating (and not one star or close). A bit better than Bloodring, but still not enough to be truly enjoyable.

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