Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

SkinwalkerJane Yellowrock is a Cherokee skinwalker, a shapeshifter who can transform into any creature she wants. She rides a custom motorcycle and hunts vampires for a living. Jane has come to New Orleans to find and kill a rogue vampire who’s terrorizing the local population — human and vampire alike. In a nice twist, she’s been hired by the city’s Vampire Council, so she’s working for the creatures she normally kills.

Jane is everything you’d want in an urban fantasy heroine. She’s tough, skilled with weapons, and brimming over with attitude. She’s mostly a loner, but she has a close friend whose family she adores. She also has a mysterious past — she was discovered as a feral child and raised in an orphanage, and she remembers very little of her life before that. Jane’s attempts to uncover and understand what she is and where she comes from add depth to her character. The novel is on the darker side of urban fantasy, with lots of action set in a gritty and merciless world.

My favorite part of Skinwalker is the way Hunter handles Jane’s shapeshifting. Jane shares a body with Beast — how this happened is revealed as Jane recovers some of her early memories. Most of the time, Jane is in human form and her psyche is dominant. When she shifts, Beast takes over. The story is narrated by whichever of the two is in charge at the moment. Hunter handles this brilliantly. She’s created two distinct narrative voices and balances them perfectly. And she keeps a tension going between them, as well. When Jane is in her human form, for example, Beast frequently sends her comments and nudges (and vice versa). Although they share a body, Jane and Beast are two distinct characters, each with her own thoughts, memories, and desires. They work together, but they also come into conflict.  In fact, Hunter gives a whole new meaning to “internal conflict” through this character. I also loved the way that Hunter deals with the logistics of shapeshifting — for example, to shift into a creature that’s bigger than her human form, Jane needs to borrow mass.  Hunter has put a lot of thought into how shapeshifting might work, and that effort adds believability to the novel.

Vicky Vaughn, the main character of my book Deadtown, is also a shapeshifter, so I was super-interested to see how Hunter handles a similar character. And the answer is “amazingly well.” Even more than the plot, which is fast-paced and full of twists and turns, the voices and conflicts of Jane/Beast were what really drove the novel for me.

Note: I purchased this book myself and derive no personal gain from reviewing it here.


About nancyholzner

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