Meow argh

January 31, 2008

Stray, by Rachel Vincent

Stray, by Rachel Vincent.

‘Straying’ ever deeper into bit-lit territory, we have this 600+ page first novel from Ms Vincent which, despite its size, was a very fast read and a rattlin’ good’un too. I must confess that this one spoke to me, yea verily it compelled me on Amazon, and when its claws were sufficiently embedded I could do naught else but buy it. And I’m happy I did. I like cats.

Stray is the story of Faythe, a female werecat in a world that’s refreshingly free (thus far in the series, anyway) of other were-creatures or supernatural phenomena. Female werecats are apparently quite rare and thus much prized by the various Prides throughout the world which are differentiated as either the more civilized Western-styled Prides or the animalistic jungle-cat South American versions.

Faythe is trying to make a point, breaking away from her rather domineering Pride structure and family to try and make a life for herself rather than just becoming a breeding tabby: she’s at college and attempting to control her own destiny, but things don’t go according to plan when a jungle cat interloper shows up and tries to abduct her. The story roars on from there through cat/Pride politics, romance (hey, it’s bit-lit after all, just in fresher colours) and some very nasty, gruesomely described serial killer elements merging into parallels with white slavery and auctioning.

For a first novel it’s rather polished, the first hundred pages being the most awkward: Vincent settles into a groove from there on in and it sprints towards a rather graphic conclusion (cat justice is a bit like watching your own cat summarily deal justice to an evil rat that’s trespassed in its domain: you’ve all seen it, and it isn’t pretty, especially when it’s enormous black cats dealing selfsame justice to human-types). I quite happily found Faythe’s voice compelling and empathetic, and was cheering along inside when, at one point, she turned the tables on her really rather horrible kidnappers using a mixture of human guile and feline… appetites.

Well worth it, this one. Looking forward to the sequel, Rogue. I just hope she doesn’t overly expand her universe and throw in all sorts of other random supernatural creatures. The cats, their social hierarchies, loves and quirks all, are fascinating enough.

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January 31, 2008

Swimming Without A Net, by MaryJanice Davidson

Swimming Without A Net, by MaryJanice Davidson.

That reddish-cheeked popping sound you are undoubtedly hearing is my Hard Nosed Only Reviews Horror persona quietly rolling over and dying. Yep, Swimming Without A Net is bit-lit: paranormal romance, in other words. Which I read on occasion. I read all sorts of things and won’t ignore it as a genre just because so much of it is fluffy bullshit, because some works within are genuinely very good.

This? It’s the sequel to Sleeping With The Fishes, and continues the story of Fred the cranky fish-feeder at the New England Aquarium, who also happens to be a mermaid and is very reluctantly being drawn into the ‘mermaid way of life’ by means of a summons to a convocation by the, er, King of the Mermaids as to whether they’re going to finally reveal themselves to us ground-dwellers.

Between this wafer of a plot is sandwiched a certain amount of romance, sex, would-be romance, generally Fred-related crankiness, some unusual and quite funny mermaid-versus-humans misunderstandings and an utterly hilarious continued sequence wherein the King of the Mermaids (should that be merpeople? hmmm) begins learning human vernacular by watching Al Swearengen talk… colourfully… in the HBO Deadwood series.

And at the end it completely didn’t do what I expected which, in something as frothy as this, was very welcome.

Enjoyable without being deep (no, that wasn’t a mermaid pun: I wouldn’t inflict ’em on you, and that’s offishial), it’s perfect light reading, and very quick. Probably needs the first one read for completeness’ sake but it’s not essential.

(Now where’s the next zombie book?)