Skinwalker by Faith Hunter is the first in the Jane Yellowrock series. I went into this thinking Jane would be another of the rock-hard, stone-hearted, fear-nothing heroines that are prevelant in this genre, and was pleasantly surprised. Yep, she’s tough, but she’ll actually admit to fear. Which I found refreshing.
Jane is a “skinwalker” – albeit one sharing her soul with a mountain lion. She believes herself to be the last of her kind, having never found another skinwalker. And certainly not one carrying around Beast inside. She’s brought to New Orleans by a new job contract, to find and hunt down a “rogue vampire”. The rogue is not only killing other vampires, but also humans. But it turns out that this rogue vampire is a lot harder to track and kill than she expected. And he may not be a vampire at all.
Faith Hunter has laid down a solid foundation to Jane’s story. We have glimpses of her history – Jane doesn’t remember anything before she was found wandering in the mountains at the age of about 12. She grew up in a childrens home, unaware of her background or the whereabouts of her parents. Throughout the book, Jane has flashbacks but they are too vague for her to pin anything down.
Despite the fact Jane is a rogue vampire hunter, she really is very naive about vampire society. And it’s only when she gets to New Orleans, and starts working for them, that she gains more of an understanding of their rules and lives and society. It’s a bit of an eye-opener for her. And when she meets a native Cherokee shaman by accident, she is given more insight into her background.
You know what I loved best about this book? There’s no immediate love-triangle going on. At last, a tough chick in the supernatural world who’s not falling into bed or overcome with lust with the first male she meets. There’s Rick LaFleur, another vampire hunter she meets – Jane is open about her lustful feelings towards him, but she suspects he’s a bit of a player, so never succumbs. But there’s mystery about Rick too – is he really what he says he is? Then there’s Leo, a Master Vampire. While she’s attracted to him, he’s a vampire and she does not want to go there. Leo himself also provides more clues to her background, unwittingly. Leo’s bodyguard, who she nicknames Bruiser, also seemed to be a potential romantic interest – although to be honest, I felt he didn’t become that way till towards the end. So while there are male leads galore, Jane does not hook up with any of them. I absolutely loved that.
Jane’s a tough chick, from the black leather to the Harley riding, yet I felt a bit of softness in her. She’s a total sucker for the two young children of her best friend Molly, a witch. And while Rick LaFleur seems to annoy her more every time they meet, she does save his life…a couple of times. She’s quite open in admitting how vamps scare her – and going into quite a few potentially dangerous situations, she’ll admit to fear. Right down to heading into a bad neighbourhood in search of some help.
Jane Yellowrock is a very interesting character. Her backstory – how she became a skinwalker, how Beast becomes a part of her, what actually happened to her before she is found at age 12, is quite well fleshed out as the story goes on. The reveal of how Beast came to be, is heartbreaking to read, and has Jane doubting who she is and what she can – or should – do.
Faith Hunter has created a very believable world in this first of the series, one that I definitely want to come back to. I loved how Jane’s friend Molly calls her “Big Cat” – I like Jane’s penchant for nicknaming the people she meets (Bruiser, Troll) – and I really love Beast’s snarkiness. When Jane shifts into Beast, we get her point-of-view – it’s a staccato choppy view and very easy to differentiate from Jane herself.
All in all, Jane Yellowrock is actually a refreshing change from the stereotypical tough chick heroine that abounds in urban fantasy, and she’s one character that I want to read more about.