REVIEW: Stray by Rachel Vincent
Dear Ms. Vincent:
I was excited about your book after Angie W blogged about it a few months ago. It is an urban fantasy, shapeshifter romance and I really like those books. It’s told in the first person. With a first person narrative, we readers have to WANT to root for the character’s successes and sympathize with her failures. When the reader finds that she would rather have the villians do away with the heroine, there is a problem.
Faythe Sanders is a female member of a Pride. While at grad school, she is attacked by a “stray”, a werecat not belonging to any Pride. Faythe is soon after summoned home by her father, the Alpha. The attack she suffered was just one in a string of attacks on the tabbies in the North American Prides. Faythe is resistant to returning home but in the face of her father’s enforcer, Marc, she obeys.
Marc is Faythe’s former lover. She knows that he still has feelings for her but she didn’t like the manipulativeness in which her family manuevered her into being engaged to Marc. It wasn’t that she doubted Marc loved her. She just didn’t like the idea that Marc marrying her was convenient for the Pride. So she ran away and went to college. Now that she is back, she is forced to confront her feelings for Marc and the Pride as well as deal with the outside danger of these “strays” taking the precious tabbies from the various Prides.
The internal Pack conflicts are tissue thin. Faythe wants out. Marcus wants her. Marcus is driven by jealousy and lust. Faythe is driven by her own selfish motivations. Of course, she never acknowledges that she is selfish. She simply whines that no one understands her. Include me in with the dense group because these are the category traits I have catalogued for Faythe:
- Selfish (i.e., in the face of real danger, Faythe believes she can handle it herself which is shown to be completely untrue at almost every stage of the book).
- Thoughtless (she nearly maims Marc for life for trying to exert his animal instinct to dominate her, knowing he is the Pride’s main enforcer and that the Pride is in danger).
- Manipulative (she uses her body to seduce her Pride mate into giving her the car keys, knowing that her father would punish him).
- Unfaithful (she lies to her boyfriend back at college and has no concern for his feelings since she feels free to make out with packmates. I guess what goes on in the Pride, stays in the Pride).
- Whiner (she is constantly complaining about the confining nature of the Pride despite the fact that there is a true source of power and opportunity dangling in front of her within the Pride).
- TSTL (her need for independence puts herself in danger).
Faythe is a rebellious, selfish, manipulative user who you try to portray as someone we should understand and like. If she owned up to these traits, I might have found that provocative. Faythe acted like someone in the throes of a teenage rebellion and I am not surprised her father treated her like a child. She acted like one constantly and I kept waiting for her to grow up and act like the adult she was purported to be.
The action plot wasn’t much better. The “strays” were attacking the tabbies. Very little of the action takes place until the last 3d of the book. Much of the time is spent focusing on the fight for Faythe’s independence (which made no sense given the danger surrounding the Pride, but whatever).
I couldn’t find it in me to care about Faythe and I put this book down a dozen times because I was so sick of reading about her. I forced myself to finish but it did get to the point that I wondered when it would ever be done. For the record, this 618 page tome was about 300 pages too long. D.