Stray by Rachel Vincent
This is a terrific example of world building!
Publisher’s Description: There are only eight breeding female werecats left…
And I’m one of them.
I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.
Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked.
I’d been warned about Strays — werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.
This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back… for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I’m no meek kitty. I’ll take on whatever — and whoever — I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays — ’cause I got claws, and I’m not afraid to use them…
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Werecat hierarchy is about to get a dose of Faythe Sanders. Werecats – which according to the author look like black panthers – are shape shifting humans in a hierarchical society based on Alphas and mostly composed of male leaders. Faythe is one of the few “tabbies” (female cats) left and she’s not a big fan of how many limits are forced upon her thanks to that fact. But even Faythe can’t hide from her responsibilities forever – when she’s dragged back home to face her family’s disapproval, her ex-lover’s affections, and the terrible news that her fellow tabbies have been kidnapped and/or killed, she realizes she has to step it up. Not that she won’t do it her way of course; Faythe is bound and determined to save the young werecat girls from their deadly captors. But when she’s caught, she realizes she needs the support of her family Pride and her savvy and intelligent skills to rip her enemies a new one.
What I love most about this book is the originality of the “Alpha” and “Pride” communities. I love the nicknames for the shifters, tabbies for girls, toms for the boys, and other labels like Stray, which is a werecat without a pride. Family is a big thing in this series and Faythe has a lot of brothers and friends – my favorite being Jace – who put up with a lot from her. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of at first was how completely irresponsible and childish Faythe seems at first. She’s running from her pack and her role in the werecat community, she’s stubborn and likes to cause fights, and most of the time she makes pretty weird decisions. But luckily as the book continues, she figures out she can’t be that way with everything at stake and gets a grip.
Characters like Marc, Jace, and Ethan also make for great sideline plots, including the love triangle that flares up between Marc, Jace, and Faythe. The relationship between Faythe and her parents is also interesting too. Her father, though strict, often puts her in positions that challenge her – to test her strengths, smarts, and skills in the face of danger. He’s a character I enjoy reading most because of how intense he is.
Vincent is great at making you feel at ease in Pride lifestyle, describing Faythe’s world and shifting scenes nearly effortlessly. I love the shapeshifting scenes the most – so much you can do when you’re a cat. I adore how Faythe’s feline instincts aren’t always anchored by her “human” form, and I like the heart wrenching danger that always brings.
I give this a shiny five because of how wonderful the world is Rachel Vincent has introduced us to.
I’ll be reviewing the rest of the series over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!
If you like this book…