Today's book review is Rogue by Rachel Vincent.
This is the second book in the series that started with Stray. It's probably reasonably understandable on its own, but events from the first book are referred to without a lot of explanation and the central characters are ongoing. This episode ends, but it's a major cliffhanger in the overall story arc.
Yes, this is another of these urban fantasy series that there are so many of. This one is about werecats -- people whose alternate form is a 200 lb. black cat, rather than a wolf -- but it's pretty much a werewolf book. The magic and the world seem to be fairly internally consistent and believable by the standards of such things. The werecat society is frustrating but all too believable, and so are the personal relationships and decisions of the main character. This is a very girly book -- we spend a lot of time worrying about clothes, for instance -- but it still held my attention very tightly.
8 out of 10. Your mileage may vary.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
We start the book with Faythe and Marc working as enforcers. She needs to prove herself, so when they unexpectedly find a stray, she wants to apprehend him without Marc actually helping. She does, but to do it she knocks him out, without letting him explain what he was doing. On which hangs much of the rest of the plot; if he'd talked, some innocent lives probably would have been saved. Stray cats are being found dead, with their necks broken but no other signs of a fight, with the scent of a strange cat on them. The Pride wouldn't be much interested, except that the third one is not a stray, he's from a neighboring Pride. There's also a rash of disappearing strippers, and the strippers all look a lot like Faythe. And Andrew, Faythe's ex from college, is calling her in a stalkerish way. It turns out that what's really happening is that on their last night together, Faythe partially Shifted without realizing it. Just her teeth. When she gave Andrew a love bite, she infected him, and she didn't even know it. And then Marc showed up and took her away. And Luiz, the psycho villain from book 1 who got away, finds Andrew when he goes back to try again to catch Faythe. And he takes him in while he lies low. The action starts up again as Luiz, with Andrew helping, is continuing to try to infect girls so that he'll have female werecats to sell to the jungle cats in South America. And Luiz is being stalked himself by Manx, who was one of his earlier victims. She'd been a slave for long enough to have born two children, unwanted males who were killed at birth. She was really motivated to save the child she's pregnant with now, so she escaped. But she really has some issues about men, and since she was following Luiz through the strip clubs, she kept meeting stray toms, whom she killed when they tried to touch her. In addition to the fact that Faythe is really upset and sorry about what she did to Andrew, she's in big trouble with the Pride. Creating a stray is a capital offense. She can probably walk if the Council will believe her story that it's an accident -- but nobody believes her story about her partial shift ability, and she can't do it at will to prove it. So she's trying to talk to Andrew, but he only wants to kill her, and she ends up killing him in self defense. And then at the end, she ends up assigned to protect the house while the guys go out to hunt Luiz, only to discover that Luiz had already snuck into the house. And he's fighting with her mother, and her mother is in trouble, so she bashes his head in. At the end of the book, Faythe has 8 weeks until her trial, and Manx has until the kid is born for hers, and Marc broke up with Faythe because Faythe refused to commit to marrying him, not because she doesn't love him but because she's still not willing to commit to settling down and being a baby factory.
There are two big sources of tension in this story, both of which are things that pain me because people that I've been persuaded to care about hurt themselves a lot by refusing to act sensibly. In the first instance, Faythe could be executed shortly for making a stray. There's reason for the rule -- strays are often crazy and out of control, and crazy out of control killers are very dangerous to a group that's trying to remain secret. But the Pride has the evidence that strays that are taken in and nurtured can be as good as Pride cats. It's obvious from my vantage point that it's time to consider changing the rules about creating strays. Additionally, though, there's the dynamic that it feels as though Faythe would get the chop, not because they think she'll actually do it again, but just as a matter of principle. This annoys me because there are so few werecats in the world that every single one is too precious to be killed for a principle, and it seems like they ought to feel this way themselves. The second source of tension is the relationship between Marc and Faythe. Most of the trouble in their relationship is caused by a lack of honest communication. If Faythe could just talk to Marc about how intensely she resents the traditional baby-factory role that everyone in her family expects her to adopt, and Marc could just talk to Faythe about how insecure he is in his own position in the Pride, how if they get properly married he has a place for life, but until then he's dependent on Greg for his whole life, it seems like they should be able to accommodate each other. They're madly in love with each other, but they're utterly hung up on this commitment thing. I suppose, in this, they're just like most real life couples, and I shouldn't be frustrated with the author for making them so realistic.