Dear Ms. Evans:
I love a good pack book and when The Thing About Weres focused on that, I was thrilled but all too often I became overburdened by complicated magical descriptions and strange writing tics. But the focus on the pack, the dance of dominance and submission, the fragile separation between man and beast is compelling.
To some degree my confusion may stem from the fact I haven’t read the first book in the series, although I’m a little glad that I skipped it since the first book clearly ended in a dramatic cliffhanger. The Thing About Weres starts off with Rowan Trowbridge aka Bridge, the Alpha of the Creemore werewolf pack being shoved through a Fae portal by the narrator of the story, Hedi Peacock-Stronghold.
Hedi is a half Fae, half were mix whose never been able to shift and has uncertain control over her Fae magic. Her mate, Trowbridge, is stuck on the other side of the portal where Hedi sent him because it was necessary to save his life (although why, I’m not sure because I didn’t read the first book and it wasn’t well explained in the second). Hedi has been acting as the alpha by proxy but her rule is being challenged internally within the Creemore pack and externally by the North American Were council.
Hedi dreams of Trowbridge every night and every night she watches him get killed by the Fae. Initially the tension is quite clear. How will Trowbridge escape from Fae land when Hedi can’t open the portal to bring him back. Unfortunately, this situation is resolved by what I’d term a deux ex machina but at this point in the story I don’t really care. I just want Bridge back and I want the story to propel forward because it’s no fun for a romance reader to read about a couple that is constantly separated.
Once Bridge is back, however, there is a new set of issues to face including the possibility that Bridge has moved on to a new mate. There is an interesting mythology to explore in this book. Hedi is a Mystwalker and there is some suggestion that she is a defender against a power hungry Mage whose destruction of one realm might spill into the eartlhy one.
Beyond the plot, however, I got stuck in the writing more than once. The prose is heavy on the atmospheric descriptions which is actually quite good at times and others I felt it was slightly overblown:
A stream of blue-gray smoke slipped past my sightline, undulated over the verdant, textured surface with a harem girl’s teasing touch, then slid under the scraggly undercarriage of the overgrown hawthorn hedge. There it played for a moment or two, ever the teasing will-o’-the-wisp, flitting between twisted branches, until it grew bored, and melted into the playground of the wild woods beyond the hedge.
Juxtaposed against this heavier, more descriptive tone is Hedi’s tendency toward the irreverent which can be funny but in this case often came off jarring, I think because of how uneven the tone was between the “verdant, textured surface” described by Hedi in one moment and the “epic stare-down” she has with her “favorite star … before I threw in the towel and tried to get some sleep.” Or when she says that she lifted her cheek instead of her head. “His little golden feet bit into my scalp as I cautiously lifted my cheek.” or “A great man is dying, I thought. Even I recognized the awesome weird buried in that comment.” The turn of phrase seems just so odd at times that I had to double back to re-read it.
I also struggled with the tense changes, from present to past, more than once in the story:
Cold liquid floods my mouth.
Tasteless, and yet somehow potent. My tongue, which had felt so thick, now tingles.
“Swallow it.” Hard command in his voice. The water tastes like spring water, but purer and sweeter than any that came in a plastic bottle. I feel panic as it clogs my throat. I’m choking on it. I spluttered it up, and then gasped air, precious air. Water leaked from the corners of my mouth.
“No!” Another squeeze of my jaw, another mouthful poured between my chattering teeth. “You’ve got to drink it all. You have to. I promise that you’ll feel better.”
A hand massaged my neck. My throat flexed, struggling to get the hurtful ball of wet past the knot in the throat.
“Please.” His tone softened. “Do it for me.”
I forced it down.
But I didn’t feel any better.
“On the next mouthful, I’ll slowly pull the blade out of her,” said the other man.
Don’t let the Fae touch it.
“More, Hedi,” said Trowbridge harshly again, pressing the cup back to my lips. Another cool flood into my mouth. Something tugs at me, pulls at me. I swallow, chest hurting. The liquid cools my throat, then my gullet. As it swims down into my core, I struggle to focus on his eyes. To see past the ropes of hair, the black whiskers.
Was this an editing error or intentional tense change for emphasis? The final version appears to have kept the tense changes so it appears deliberate but for me, the tense change was confusing and just one more thing that interrupted the flow of the story. Sometimes as I read this I wondered if it was meant for a lit fic crowd and that the writing was just too highbrow for me to get it. Maybe it is. I wanted to like this more because of the political pack issues, something I’m a huge fan of and don’t get to read enough about. I’m giving this book a C but its a subjective grade.