Another mythologizing animal sharing a spark of intellectual passion!
This book was, interestingly enough, a free digital book from Tor which my friend had downloaded in mid-2008, and suggested I might enjoy if I wanted another urban fantasy. Checking on amazon, I find that the book was first published in 2006, and is the first of a series of three books. I found this surprising, as did my friend when I talked to him about it later, because of some issues we both had with the book. Firstly, from a purely technical viewpoint, I caught a handful of simple editorial mistakes which I would have thought should have been caught before the book went to print — I'd (incorrectly) assumed the book in digital format was some sort of pre-printing release.
Also, the cover art was more jarring than usual, in a genre renown for covers which ignore the actual heroine in order to depict anorexic girls in stupidly inappropriate and skimpy costumes. Think about it: in a world where the "vampires" are biological parasites embedded into their victims' brains, and the very practical and handy heroine (as in she does her own home repairs) loathes them… why would she apparently dress in nothing more than a tiny, midriff-baring, bat-wing-scalloped, black leather top? Admittedly, none of this was enough to render the story unreadable or bad in any way — it was just the sort of thing that surprised me to see in a professionally produced book.
Secondly, as my friend noted, there was a story the protagonist referred to more than once — a dramatic adventure that happened to her previous to the events in the book. As my friend and I agreed, it was clear there was enough happening there that it would have made another book just in and of itself — and in fact, that's why my friend was surprised to hear this was the first book of a series. He'd assumed it had to be the second title (at the very least) due to the critical nature of the events swiftly and superficially related in this book.
My friend and I also had a major issue with the concept of the Thrall, or the vampire equivalents in the story — they were simply too powerful! Consequently the humans were effectively doomed, even if the authors hadn't yet realized their vampires would be able to easily overwhelm humanity; that made for a darned depressing background. However, I found the werewolves rather interesting — as far as I know this is the first time ever they've been depicted as a completely matrifocal subculture, and within the premises of the story it made interesting and quite logical sense.
I wish I could have read more about the werewolves; I found them far more sympathetic than our heroine. She seemed well meaning enough, but frighteningly clueless — at one point, when she's uninjured but required to see a doctor, she tries to "cut line" in the emergency room her brother works in… past a weeping boy with a bleeding head wound! I found her personality rather flat, to the point that I really couldn't figure out why people were so devoted to her and willing to help even when it endangered them. She also seemed nearly categorically unwilling to let anyone help her protect those she cared about, which meant everyone was consequently endangered. Her bargaining "abilities" with someone she knew was a stickler for abiding strictly by the word rather than the spirit of the agreement made, made me roll my eyes in exasperation — clearly she's not a gamer. :)
There are two other books in this series, and I thought it was interesting the authors definitively concluded the series — that's unusual for most of the serial stories I've heard of. Nevertheless, the double whammy of an overly powerful enemy and a somewhat uninteresting heroine means I shan't be looking them up.
Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.
Help yourself & me too!