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REVIEW: Tiger Magic by Jennifer Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

One of my favorite historical re-reads is The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie and in Tiger Magic I think I see hints of the same character, although not the same romantic arc. This is the fifth book in the Shifters Unbound series which is an alternate reality contemporary that makes a strong social statement. Shifters, viewed as dangerous animals, are collared and tagged by the government. There are strong tensions between humans and shifters and it is considered taboo to mingle with them. Of course, taboo for some means exciting so there is no shortage of humans that wander into the Shiftertowns looking for a taste of the exotic.

Tiger Magic (Shifters Unbound #5) by Jennifer AshleyDiscussions of otherness is the very heart of the conflict in the Shifters Unbound series, even if it isn’t explicitly stated. Tiger has no name or clan. He is a wild shifter, created in a lab and has escaped. He has been mated before and knows the feelings and sensations brought on by the mate bond and when he sees Carly Randal, he recognizes her as generating similar, but even stronger feelings. Because Tiger has been brought up outside of the world, he has little understanding of the customs and constraints of human and Shifters alike. He acts primarily on instinct and his innate Shifter thought process.

Carly begins the story engaged to a man who is cheating on her and at a loss at how to recover given that her work life was tied up in her fiancee. Carly appreciates being rescued by Tiger but she’s confused by his sudden appearance in her life and his unwillingness to leave her side. But because she’s been seen with him and because he’s being hunted by the government, Carly’s life is endangered. The beginning of the story was slow and the romance requires the reader to take huge leaps. I’m always disappointed in a romance when the falling in love portion is simply skipped over and that’s pretty much what happens in the story. Carly is swept up into the Shiftertown politics and the conflict over who controls Tiger.

There are two story arcs within this book – the romance and the mystery of Tiger’s origin. Why was he created and what do they want with him? The reveal is a little incredible although it was one way to resolve (and cement) Tiger’s place within Shiftertown.

Tiger’s presence in Shiftertown presented a power imbalance. He was not part of any clan and he was quite powerful. He didn’t accede to any one alpha’s rulings. Because Tiger stood outside the clan structure, there was little advancement in the overall mythology of the Shifters and the fae and their struggle for equality with the humans. However, because of the genetic testing on Tiger there is possibility this will have implications in future books.

While I had wished for more movement in the overall series arc and struggled a bit with the great initial leaps I was required to take in order to swallow the romance, Carly and Tiger are a sweet coupling and I appreciate the social commentary wrapped up in a sexy paranormal romance. We aren’t just getting hot Tiger loving in these books. B-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

6 Comments

  1. mari
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 09:52:17

    Do you have to read the other books in the series to fully appreciate this one?

    Is the social commentary heavy-handed and obvious or subtle, more of a “hmmmm, that’s interesting” kind of a thing?

    Thanks…

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  2. pamelia
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 10:35:05

    I so love this series. “Madness of Lord Ian McKenzie” is also one of my favorite re-reads, but the rest of her historical series never really worked as well for me. The Shifters Unbound series is really entertaining and I love following the recurring characters as well as the new stories.
    I really enjoyed this book too but like you, Jane, I wish there was a stronger emotional arc to the love story in this one. The whole insta-love because they’re mates can leave the romance a bit lacking. Plus the time-frames for the love stories in these books are all REALLY fast. Still they are fun and have more to them than “just” the romances.
    @ mari: I would say you should read the series in order (although I started with the novella “Bodyguard” which was book 2.5 IIRC) since there are overarching plotlines and references to prior books that might be a little confusing if you had skipped them.

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  3. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 11:36:23

    Jane, I don’t know if you haven’t tried the series before, but Eileen Wilks World of the Lupi books have shifters (and other magic creatures) also just recently acknowledged as having legal rights when in human form!

    There’s no mate bond and hardly any fertility – so the Lupi society works quite differently for procreation – unless you get Chosen by their goddess (which doesn’t mean that you love each other, but only that you feel strong lust and that she wants you on her side in her war with the dark adversary – it also doesn’t mean you’re suddenly more fertile). I really like the way that Lily Yu is portrayed as a capable cop/agent who makes the alpha Rule Turner acknowledge her, and also as Chinese American (her grandmother is a big part of the background for her own magic, her mother and younger sister are repeating characters).

    I think Wilks has the best blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance with an exploration of how you negotiate a relationship and family in the long run of all the series out there (Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson started later). In none of the better know series is there comparable emphasis on integrating the love with family and friends.

    Hmm, considering Lily Yu is Chinese American you may have tried out the series in 2004 when it started ^^. I’ve just been doing a full reread so I’m just full of enthusiasm for it.

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  4. Jane
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 11:55:25

    @mari: The social commentary is apparent to me, given that the Shifters are differing class, tagged, collared, and made to live in impoverished regions and must take care to appear nonthreatening or in possession of material goods.

    @pamelia: Yes, the MacKenzie series was rather a let down (Hart’s book particularly) but I really do like Ashley’s voice. Her books, like you said, provide you with something more than a pure romance which I enjoy from time to time.

    @Estara Swanberg: Yes, I’ve read (and reviewed here) many of the books in the Wilks’ series.

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  5. Bamaclm
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 12:45:24

    I believe there is a mating bond in the Wilkes books. They can’t go very far from each other or the bond tightens and they become weak and/or unconscious, which can be very problematic considering Rule is the face of his people and Lily is a cop/agent. Takes a bit of planning. :-)

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  6. Estara Swanberg
    Jun 12, 2013 @ 12:46:47

    @Bamaclm: It’s a Goddess bond (which makes Lily the Chosen) and not automatically something that every Lupi male gets. There is one other Chosen pair happening in the 7th or 8th book, the secondary most often featured couple – Cullen and Cynna – are not Chosen, for example. All the other Lupi don’t have one female, which I thought quite daring but is really set-up well in the worldbuilding of what the Lupi packs are like.
    There is actually major upset because first Cullen (but he’s not the face of his people OR a Rho and was even a lone Lupi for a time, clanless) and then Rule decide to ask for marriage from their respective beloved.

    And I loved the fact that while the Chosen bond manipulates people it doesn’t make them fall in love or like each other, just fall in lust (and easier to manipulate from the goddess side, and occasionally profit from special abilities the other side has). So the two Chosen couples have to fall in love and work on their relationship on their own – they also don’t automatically understand each other without speaking and stuff like that.

    I also found it fascinating that the second male lupi in the new Chosen couple, Rule’s older brother, who was majorly upset when Rule announced he wanted to marry, has no interest in (and made it clear to his Chosen) marrying even though he’s happy with the bond and has managed to integrate with the tight family bonds of his beloved (that’s the Tied with a Bow Christmas story). He’s sticking to the Lupi customs of the last three thousand years.

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