REVIEW: Second Skin by Caitlin Kittredge
Dear Ms. Kittredge,
I have an uneasy relationship with the heroine of your Nocturne City novels, Luna Wilder. What this means is that I sometimes think she makes stupid decisions, which I don’t care for since I prefer a certain level of intelligence and competence in my urban fantasy leads (or leads in general, regardless of the genre), but those mistakes are mitigated by the fact that there are actual repercussions for making them. This sounds like a basic concept but from reading — or attempting to read — many an urban fantasy novel, I often encounter leads who don’t have to face the consequences of their actions in an appropriately weighted manner.
When Second Skin opens, Luna has left her position as a police detective and is now a member of a SWAT unit. It’s been a while since I read Pure Blood, so I can’t quite remember if this was introduced then or was a development in between books. At any rate, she can’t escape her former position because being a detective is in her blood and it doesn’t help when former colleagues come knocking on her door and asking for help.
Members of Nocturne City’s oldest and most prominent werewolf families are turning up dead. That’s bad enough but then the people responsible try to make her their next victim. Readers familiar with the Nocturne City novels will know how well that goes over with Luna.
First of all, I’d like to say that Luna was far more bearable in this book than she has been in the past. All those mistakes and their consequences have been having their effect on her. She’s still the same forthright, abrasive character we met in Night Life, but the same obnoxiousness that annoyed me then is not present. Maybe she’s finally grown wiser as time goes by. I can’t emphasize enough how much I like reading about characters who grow and change over the course of a series, so that the character you meet in book 3 is not the same one in book 1 and therefore would not act or react the same way.
On the other hand, part of me wants to sit Luna down and broach the topic about her unfortunate taste in men. I realize this would only result in my getting punched in the face but honestly, it’s terrible! Not only is her boyfriend becoming increasingly unstable as a result of that demon bite he received in Night Life, he’s becoming controlling and domineering in their relationship. It’s obvious to me that as things stand, the two of them are incompatible because what Dmitri wants is the last thing Luna does.
We’re not even going to go into the other prospect, Jason, who may or may not be a crazed killer. I admit I liked him as a character more than I do Dmitri but there are some things that appear to prevent any future relationship from Luna developing. That’s all I’m going to say here to avoid spoilers. I might have drawn the incorrect conclusion from what was presented in the book but to be honest, I’m not sure where Luna’s romantic life is headed from here.
I like the fact that the novel featured wendigo and the surrounding folklore. I feel like that’s one supernatural beastie that should feature more often in urban fantasy novels but that never seems to be the case. And can I just say the wendigo spider monsters were creepy? I shudder even now. Maybe it’s a result of my deep-seated fear of insects and spiders descending upon my head from above or behind. I’m sure some readers out there share that aversion.
As for the story itself, I found myself missing the police procedural that was pervasive in the first two novels. I realize it wasn’t possible to include as much of it here since Luna was now SWAT and a target of the perpetrators but the nitty gritty occupational aspects of Luna’s job were some of my favorite things. That said, I did like most of the novel unfolded but I thought the revelations involving Jason were perhaps a bit sudden and abrupt.
It was interesting to see Luna work with Bryson, someone with whom she’s knocked heads in the past. He still strikes me as slimy and I’m sure that was intentional but oddly enough, I liked the fact that Luna and he didn’t suddenly become the best of friends because of the werewolf killings. That wouldn’t have been realistic at all.
When it comes to a grade, I’m torn between liking how Luna’s character has matured and disliking how the plot weakened a bit at the end. Balancing all things out, Second Skin is a B- for me. I look forward to seeing what Luna’s new role in Nocturne City will involve and possibly learning more about the werewolf/wendigo conflict. It seems like there’s a wealth of history of conflict to mine there.
This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon. No ebook format. And let me (jane) take the opportunity to say to St. Martin’s Press that charging $14.00 retail for an ebook that is out in mass market paperback (Night Life) is an insult to readers.