As I didn’t find urban fantasy until recent years, I’ve missed a lot of the ‘classics’. Almost every favorites list of UF characters includes Kate Daniels (Ilona Andrews), Mercy Thompson (Patricia Briggs), Rachel Morgan (Kim Harrison), and Jane Yellowrock (Faith Hunter). I’ve read the first three and did Book Chat reviews so it’s only fair I give Jane a try! We’ll start with the usual book basics then jump into negative reader reviews.
Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
Jane Yellowrock Book 1 of 15
Published: May 22, 2009
Amazon: 2,211 ratings; 4.6 avg
Goodreads: 36,882 ratings; 3.92 avg
1st person POV
Meet shapeshifting skinwalker Jane Yellowrock in the first novel in the New York Times bestselling series that captures “the essence of urban fantasy” (SF Site).
Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.
Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own…
Again, as a UF classic, this one has high averages, but that doesn’t mean everyone liked it. I compiled the usual list of oft repeated criticisms in others’ reviews below.
Readers’ Negative Review Points
-Rambling/ boring/ too many unnecessary details
-Characters are unlikeable/ uninteresting
My process is to start the book without reading reviews then go back and see if/ how my initial impressions line up with the negative reviews. There are these cute chapter titles and one of the first (Ch 3 I think) is I’m a tea snob or something similar. There were pages dedicated to describing tea, tea pots, etc. It was cute as a chapter title, but it did quickly bore me. There were similar details for the setting which was interesting to a degree. On this one, I quickly sided with those negative reviews. As I’ve mentioned, I’m an impatient reader so I skipped quite a bit.
The descriptions definitely set the stage with details on New Orleans and include a lot of sensory input which works for Jane/ Beast. However, I read this in the middle of a heat wave so the constant reminder of heat, humidity, and human sweat every few pages didn’t work for me.
Again, I ended up skipping a bit which lead to some confusion, annoyance, and having to go back. I believe I was a good 100 pages in before I really settled into reading and enjoying this one.
Some of the reader complaints focused on Jane not representing the Cherokee heritage well. I haven’t researched enough to know if that is true. As such, I enjoyed reading the character and getting a bit of history and culture (even with a fantasy edge). I didn’t absolutely fall in love with Jane or any of the main characters but I found them likeable for the most part. The worldbuilding was interesting to me and it seemed Jane had a lot to learn about it too.
I did look ahead a bit to see how the series develops. I can’t help it – I like seeing romances! Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear I’ll like how that pans out.
There is one character I’d love to read about – Angie (as an adult with her full power). That kid seems interesting!
As stated, this is first person POV, but there are 2 POVs – Jane and the Beast soul sharing her body. It’s a big cat which as a cat person I loved. What I didn’t love was Beast’s actual perspective. It was intriguing for a few lines and easily distinguishable from Jane’s POV which made it interesting (there did appear to be more similarities in style as the story progressed which I’m not sure was intentional foreshadowing or something else – more on that in the writing section). There were just some weird quirks that jerked me from the story. I’ve added examples below.
“Sniffed. Hack of disgust. Old meat. Dead prey. Long cooled blood.”
“Ahhh. Hunt. For one of them. Drew in night air. Delicate nostril membranes fluttering, expanding, relaxing.”
I found the fragments worked for a Beast. ‘Delicate nostril membranes fluttering’?? Not so much.
Overall, I’ll give this one a solid 3.5 stars. The style didn’t work as well for me as it might others, but I found the world and characters interesting. I can certainly see why others love it even though I’m not sure I’ll continue the series at this time.
It’s your turn – whether you loved it or hated it, feel free to share your thoughts here! We’ll switch over to the writer analysis below so feel free to skip down to the cute cat picture and book links if that doesn’t interest you!
It’s always so fun for me to flip things around and review a book as a writer. For some, it might ruin the magic of a good book, but for me, it usually heightens it. I’m fascinated by authors who can keep me interested in a story as a reader…and I want to learn from them as a writer. Let’s jump right in!
One of the most repeated complaints is one I barely addressed, but it’s certainly something for fellow writers to consider. Cultural appropriation. I didn’t research the author’s ancestry or anything about her really. I also have very little knowledge of Native Americans and mostly that’s been from my love of history in general without specialized study/ research.
Sensitivity readers and cultural appropriations are often topics in readers groups. I definitely fall on the side of do your research and write what you know/ love. Yep, that’s a pretty vague description, but I think the bottom line is that each writer must decide how to proceed.
For clarity’s sake, cultural appropriation is defined as ‘the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society’. Another website gave states ‘Cultural appropriation refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression and doesn’t respect their original meaning or give credit to their source. It also includes the unauthorized use of parts of their culture (their dress, dance, etc.) without permission.’ [source: What Is Cultural Appropriation? (verywellmind.com) ] The same source notes ‘Cultural appreciation, on the other hand, is the respectful borrowing of elements from another culture with an interest in sharing ideas and diversifying oneself.’
Again, I’d encourage all writers to find their path with care and consideration.
Now, let’s revisit another criticism from above – Beast. While I’ve rambled about POV previously, this is the first time in this particular way. I did find it interesting and unique. My problem was with the execution. I think it’s important to find the character’s voice and characters do have inconsistencies, preferences, habits, etc. That is one of the fascinating aspects of writing for me. I typically start with 1-2 characters (usually one M and one F as romance is always a fun addition for me) and a bit of a world and plot. Each of these things develop as I write and understand more. Often, I then go back to bring out a character’s voice in a stronger manner. Word choice and sentence structure can be powerful tools as can physical quirks and habits.
If you look at Beast’s POV, the sentence fragments worked for me. Some readers found them caveman-like and hated them. Again, I was good with that. It was the bigger words and sentences that felt wrong to me.
I read somewhere that if you pick a few sentences randomly from your story, you should always be able to tell which character is speaking. I believe this to be true only in part, but it makes for an interesting test while writing. On the flip side, I think it’s also a way to show similarities as characters bond and pick up each other’s habits a bit. Again, it’s one of my favorite parts of crafting a story.
I may start adding this as a regular feature but I’m not sure if it will always be in the writer section. I think it’s important that the blurb set/ guide the reader’s expectations. I addressed this in another book chat [link] as well. Then, I thought the blurb fell short. This time, I thought it fairly accurate even if simplified. I think there’s something to be learned from that as many times we try to cram too much into our blurbs in an attempt to hook as many readers as possible.
One piece of writing advice I love is to think about marketing as you write your book (instead of trying to do it afterward). For me, this means I start writing my blurb at the very beginning. It grows and changes as my story does and helps me focus on the big points. At times, it’s revealed a new plot twist or trope for me to add and play with as I write.
Fellow writers, have you read this one? What lessons did you learn?
As always, if you’d like to do a guest Book Chat post, I’d love to hear from you! You can comment below or send me a message from the Contact page on my website.
That brings our July Book Chat to an end, my friends! Many thanks for joining again. You’ll find a US Amazon link to this month’s read and the August one below. Of course, I’ve included another cat picture as well. Until next time, happy reading and writing to all!