Skinwalker - Faith Hunter This is dark fantasy, bloody and harsh – not my favorite genre. But it’s written so well, I never wanted to abandon the book. I wanted to read to the end. I wanted to know what happened next to its heroine Jane Yellowrock – a Cherokee, a vampire hunter, a skinwalker.
In the fantasy lingo, Jane is a shape-shifter, and she can take any shape she wants, although there is always a price. Her preferred shape is a panther. Together, they fight rogue vampires: by day as a human woman, using words and technology, by night as a beast, using the panther’s tracking skills, superior strength, and speed.
Jane is a complicated character, full of contradictions, unique in the genre, as far as I can tell. I’ve never read about another one like her. Two creatures cohabit in her body and soul in an uneasy alliance. Both are given words by the author, whenever Jane shifts, reflecting her dual personality: a predator with a vaguely human attitude and a definite human intelligence. She makes mistakes. She loves dancing. She carries a big gun and rides a motorcycle. And she would kill without compunction, if necessary. She is not human, and it shows.
In this story, Jane is hired by the vampire council of New Orleans to find and destroy a rogue vampire terrifying the city dwellers, both human and vamps. The action moves so fast, it leaves you reeling: one escapade after another, with danger growing exponentially to the page number. Nobody is Jane’s friend, everyone has his/hers own agenda, but she, a true predator, comes out of every encounter invariably one step ahead of her adversaries. Always snarling and smiling, she wouldn’t accept any outcome but victory.
The city of New Orleans, permeated by moisture and music, is a character in her own right. The city throbs with life around Jane, its ambience dark and sensual. It’s no surprise that one of the constant sets of the story is a brothel owned by a vampire.
In parallel with Jane’s investigation flows another plot line: her memories and recollections, as she tries to figure out who and what she is. This is as much an action adventure with mystery undertones as it is a self-discovery tale.
The secondary characters in the book are colorful but grim. Most of them are links along the same food chain: from the vampire masters down to their human blood servants and from them to the rest of humanity. Every layer dominates and terrifies the ones beneath. Fortunately, Jane is outside this chain: a classic loner, able to fight her way to the top, rude, irreverent, and fiercely independent, beautiful and untamed like her panther alter ego.
I enjoyed this book, but it started me on a rather odd strain of thought. In Faith Hunter’s world, the blood servants to the vampires serve their masters willingly. They accept abuse from the vamps, and then dish it out down the chain to the rest of the people. Why do they serve? What makes them consciously choose to give up their free will to their bloodsucking lords? In our modern times too. In general: what makes one choose a life of a loyal servant instead of a paid employee? Of course there are benefits and perks, but do they outweigh the constant bleedings and the risk of death by an occasionally enraged monster?