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REVIEW: Stray by Rachel Vincent

Dear Ms. Vincent:

Book CoverI 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.

Best regards

Jane

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

38 Comments

  1. Angela
    May 31, 2007 @ 16:35:13

    How disappointing. I have been on the fence about this book since I read the summary (I like werewolves and shape-shifters, but the plot didn’t seem overly compelling), but the review hits the very things that would kill a book for me. Oh well–guess I’ll have to wait for L.A. Banks’ upcoming werewolf series and the next Patricia Briggs’ installment for my “were” fix.

  2. Keishon
    May 31, 2007 @ 16:43:04

    I had started to buy this book, but didn’t. Cool cover, tho.

  3. Vernieda
    May 31, 2007 @ 17:15:25

    Oh no, I’ve been looking forward to this one! But the things you mention are the same exact things that irritate me in a novel. That’s really a bummer.

    Then again, you saved me some future aggravation.

  4. Dawn
    May 31, 2007 @ 17:24:19

    Um, Stray is not a romance. It’s an urban fantasy with romantic elements. I’m a little confused as to why it is being shelved with the romances, but what do I know? I really enjoyed it, but I also wasn’t expecting it to read like a paranormal romance. It’s also the first of a series, and I’m looking forward to see Faythe grow. I thought she did a good job mirroring cat traits with her human behavior.

    And in regard to Faythe’s father, I thought it was the other way around. Her behaviour stemmed from being treated like a child. Not vice versa. At least that’s how I took it.

  5. Jane
    May 31, 2007 @ 18:03:25

    I totally respect your opinion but my complaints of the book ddn’t relate to the romance portion or lack thereof. It was my inability to connect to the herione that was the root. Angela, have you tried Shelly Laurentson? She does very fun, fresh Pride stories.

  6. Vivi Anna
    May 31, 2007 @ 18:53:48

    I LOVED this book. I didn’t find any of those things Jane. And I’m totally in lust with Jace. He was worth reading the book for.

    I love urban fantasy, my favorite authors are Kim Harrison, Rachel Caine, Lillith Saintcrow, Vicki Petterssen, and this book totally worked for me.

  7. Dawn
    May 31, 2007 @ 18:56:06

    I only mentioned it because you referred to it as a romance. My apologies.

  8. Angelle
    May 31, 2007 @ 19:13:53

    This book was bought in an auction for something like six figures…by Harlequin. So it may be shelved in romance for that reason. I don’t expect any romance in the book though.

  9. Jane
    May 31, 2007 @ 19:19:13

    No apologies necessary. I don’t think I was expecting “romance” in the traditional sense. I can definitely see comparisons to Dante Valentine of whom I am not fond. That may be the correlation: If you like Lilith Saintcrow, then you will like Rachel Vincent.

  10. Barbara B.
    May 31, 2007 @ 20:45:06

    Except for the stubborn stupidity, I love “unlikeable” heroines. It makes for a refreshing break from the usual boring, likeable heroines.

    Thanks for an informative review, Jane. I think I’ll take my chances and buy this one, although I have no love for urban fantasy. Can’t resist a bitchy heroine.

  11. LesleyW
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 03:15:55

    I have this on my wishlist at the moment. I guess I’m interested to find out how similar it is to Bitten – which is one of my favourite urban fantasy books. The plot seems really similar but with cats instead of wolves.

  12. Angie
    Jun 01, 2007 @ 07:01:27

    As Jane said when she linked to my post, I very much enjoyed this book. That is not to say it’s not without its flaws and there was time where I thought Faythe was a bit immature and needed to be smacked around a little. But I could read past that, it didn’t bother me to the extent it got to Jane and I happily read the entire “tome” in one night. I think others should give it a chance if you thought it looked interesting, only because while I recognize what Jane is saying, I think it depends on the person, whether you would react the same to how the book goes.

    And no, I don’t know Rachel Vincent even a little bit. Not even to comment on her blog. I’m just someone who felt differently about the book than Jane did.

  13. Jo
    Jun 03, 2007 @ 04:17:08

    I was waiting for the book to arrive when I saw your review, I didn’t read beyond ‘D reviews’ in case I prejudiced myself. I read the first 250, put it down, read Tanya Huff’s ‘Heart of Valor’, then picked up ‘Stray’ again and read the last chapter. I have since read from p500 (ish) to the end and have no desire to read the bit in the middle. I too found the heroine whiny, selfish and immature and I couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to her.

    I usually love Urban Fantasy and I bought it as a fantasy book rather than a romance one. I really enjoyed the first 2 Dante Valentine books so your correlation that if you like Lilith Saintcrow you’ll like Rachel Vincent doesn’t quite work – sorry.

  14. Shanna
    Jun 03, 2007 @ 19:20:07

    She definitely needed a spanking or a thump on the head. I hate when heroines have no common sense. The part I did like about this book was the whole werecat thing. It was a nice change from the average shapeshifter story.

  15. raspberry swyrl
    Jun 04, 2007 @ 09:59:13

    What annoyed me, was she was all ‘look at me, I’m so independant but daddy won’t let me be’ is he was paying for her school and living expenses. I’m sorry but if you can’t even get out and get a job and yes maybe even a loan for school, how the hell are you going to be indepedant?? As long as daddy was paying for everything, I couldn’t believe in her independance.

  16. Jane
    Jun 04, 2007 @ 10:13:31

    Raspberry Swirl – that’s a good point and illustrative of the entire book’s problems. The author says one thing about the character but her actions show something different.

    I felt it had a strong Clay/Elena feel too but I loved those books so didn’t want to draw those comparisons. I read your blog post, though, and you pointed out more similarities such as the “cage” incident. I never felt Elena was whiney though. She had good reason to be angry with Clay. I didn’t quite understand the dynamic between Faythe and Marcus.

  17. raspberry swyrl
    Jun 04, 2007 @ 11:53:41

    No I never felt Elena was whiney either. She had honestly had some hard knocks in life and when she finally lets her guard down for someone, he betrays her, and in such a way that she can never have what she wanted her whole life, no matter how hard she tries.

    Faythe and Marcus…he wanted her, she wanted him, but he’s not letting her be ‘independant’ so she runs off but I think still expects him to want her when she gets back, to wait for her and do what she tells him to do.

    I couldn’t help but draw comparisons throughout the whole book in my head. It’s also funny when you think about it that book Stray and Bitten are the respective authors first book.

  18. Silverfox
    Jun 07, 2007 @ 12:19:08

    damit i have only read about this book at kim harrisons recomendations reading the letter i wont be buying coz (and some 1 beat me o it) it sound xactly like the bitten book but for cats.

    shame im looking for another decent sires of books along the same line…. not here then.

  19. Taekduu
    Jun 11, 2007 @ 16:32:22

    I initially pre-ordered this book through Amazon and the review came up the day it was shipped. I was definitely not looking forward to it. However, as these things happen, a plan ride was in order and I needed entertainment. I don’t think this book qualifies as urban paranormal because, well, most of the action takes place far out of the cities. It was however still an interesting read and it caught my attention. Part of my issues lay with the fact that it is the first book in the series and so much groundwork about a culture and species had to be laid down through the first person tone of Faythe. I think lots of it was more about telling than anything else.

    I will say I wonder if the issue you had with this book was simply that Faythe was acting her age. Many of her arguments sound more like the ones my seventeen year old sister offers when she wants something. There is a level of blindness to looking outside of herself but she seems to have glimmers of a clue as to her own behavior and trying to look at things from a different viewpoint. I do believe that there would have been more maturing in 5 years of college than was displayed in the book. However, school remains a protective environment for many. I would be interested in seeing what happens as she matures.

    As for the college boyfriend, I am not shocked she forgot about him. They had only been dating for 4 months and relationships can be transient. In the midst of all the pride drama he probably seemed like the least of her problems. But did anyone else not feel like he was a little stalkerish? Pushing to meet her parents like that? Is that really normal?.

  20. Sue
    Jun 14, 2007 @ 17:31:14

    I just finished reading Stray and did enjoy it. That’s not to say certain parts didn’t irritate me. Yes, Faythe was immature and needed to grow. I feel she didn’t quite manage that by the end of the book. But there is room for growth in a sequel. Honestly, if she had matured a lot by the end of the book, that would have been unrealistic (odd to say about a novel about humnas turning into cats). And considering the time frame, I wouldn’t expect her to do a 180 either. She’s young and has a lot to learn. Something, realistically, she couldn’t do by the end of the book. But Faythe was not the irritant in the story, Marc was. He needed to grow up a lot. His constant barging in, hovering, and what seemed to me to be a very controlling nature was extremely irritating. Many a time I wanted to shout out, “*** off, get out, get control of yourself.” A fast and good read. Yes, I would buy the next one. My hat off to you, Rachel.

  21. Nicole
    Jun 19, 2007 @ 18:03:34

    I just finished this book, and I have to admit that I absolutely loved the book. And all those qualities the girl posted she hated about Faythe… well sorry girl, but you must hate about 95% of the world’s population… wake up and smell the roses. Rachel Vincent created a real character, perhaps not the strongest nor the smartest but hey, find me a strong and smart girl in the real world and I’ll point out 100 who don’t have those qualities. Simply because Faythe did not have the qualities you expect characters to have in books, because books are fantasy, doesn’t mean that the book was poorly written. Having very protective parents myself and living on my own for the first time while going to University… I must admit I feel a lot of the same feelings that Faythe felt during her internal struggle between duty and love for family vs. independence and a chance to discover a true identity. I laughed out loud, I cried, I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster- the type of story I love to read. Rachel, you’re absolutely brilliant and I cannot wait for Rogue and Pride… can you get them out earlier? I just finished Stray and I want to read the next one right now.

  22. Rebecca
    Jun 29, 2007 @ 10:34:33

    i loved this. i picked this book up by chance because i was going out of town and i needed something to read. I disagree with the post because i see Faythe in a completly different light. I saw her as a confused if not just a proud woman trying to find a life on her own terms. I found it touching how Faythe fought for her independence. She has her faults but thats what makes her so real. I think she is a tough, blunt at times but kind character that many can relate too. Great job Rachel, keep up the great work and keep writting, i can’t wait for your next one.

  23. jmc
    Jul 06, 2007 @ 07:38:17

    I think Stray could’ve been an interesting book, but Faythe (hate that spelling, it makes me think the narrator is lisping and means to be saying “face”) as narrator was a problem for me. I thought she was shallow, selfish, whiny, and TSTL…so I pretty much agree with Jane’s review.

  24. iaeinekind
    Jul 08, 2007 @ 19:48:31

    I liked “Stray” and finished it in 6 hours.

    Good
    *world-building
    *integration of knowledge of felines into “Pride” structure
    *1st Person Narrative puts you in the action and makes explanations of “Pride” structure flow easily
    * It is well written with clearly unique characters (no worries about getting the leading man confused with the villain or the best friend which always annoys me in the majority of paranormal romances. But then again, this is urban fantasy right?)

    Bad
    *A little long (I took a 5 min breather 2/3 of the way through.)
    *For most of the book, Faythe is all whine no spine when it comes to her “independence”. I was disappointed as it doesn’t fit with the book exterior’s depiction of her as a mature independent graduate student…but it does fit with a 22 year old indulged female in a Pride full of male werecats.

    This book is essentially a coming of age novel. It is going to resonate best with a young (18-25), Goth/Fantasy, audience. I thought it was paced well, and fun to read though I did shake my head at Faythe’s stubborness sometimes. But if she was not TSTL – there wouldn’t be a book to read in the first place…I don’t think it deserves a D.

  25. Crystal2star
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 11:56:50

    I think this book was great. I liked the plot and the scene. I think Rachael Vincent did a great job in writing this book. I hope to read some more from her. If you like authors like Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, and Patricia Briggs then you will love this book.

  26. Ladynaava
    Sep 09, 2007 @ 23:11:33

    Quite an excellent post Jane! I agree with you 100%

    I admit when I first started this book, I liked the writers style. But it soon became apparent that this was a very derivative work. She borrows too much from Armstrong for my comfort level. And Fayth was TSTL. I wanted her to be taken down a peg or two and it never happened. I can understand a character being spoiled at the beginning… But remaining that way doesn’t work for me.

    I liked her male characters though. Maybe another heroine would make the book shine.

    I also felt the ecology of the werecats didn’t make any sense. Why would these people not fight more over who got the female cats when there were so few of them? The longterm monogamy wasn’t very catlike Plus the non alpha males seemed too complacent to me. I would imagine they’d be dueling every chance they got for available women. Honestly I’d like to have seen a more catlike ecology…

    Regarding Fayth, I think the characters insistance on ‘independance’ even though it jeapordized her family and her life made her TSTL. I think I prefer heroines to be a tad more loyal… Her family had paid for school, grad school and this woman wanted for nothing… It was difficult to feel sorry for her… Plus despite her being ‘groomed’ for leadership I felt she lacked the qualities of a good leader… To be honest I felt sorry for Marc being saddled with her.=)

  27. Joshuelle
    Sep 10, 2007 @ 19:39:51

    I absolutely loved this bok. Although i wouldn’t say it was romance. Maybe they are shelved together because of the continunce of the series. I actually picked this book up for $1.00 at an RBC book fair. I was so surprised because it was published in 2007 and nobody had even touched it. Worth a lot more than a dollar though!!

  28. Tracy Cubberly
    Oct 15, 2007 @ 01:40:16

    See I totally loved this book. I read it twice and stayed up for over 32 hrs just to finish it. Yes at times Fathye seems selfish, but what college girl isn’t? I am so excited about Rogue coming out, I keep emailing the author hoping for a hint about the next book! I loved the love triangle with Fathye, Jace and Marc is was cute and hot at the same time. I think for the authors first published book it was GREAT! I have Rogue pre-ordered and I hope it comes out early! Sorry Jane, I agree with you most of the time, but not on this book, I give it A++…Hey I read just about as many books a week as you do, so I should be writing these reviews!!! We can do a jane and Tracy review!! LOL

  29. Ariana
    Dec 15, 2007 @ 19:39:40

    This book was actually quite good. I can not wait until her next book comes out. But the book left me wondering one thing is Andrew a werecat more importantly is he a jungle cat

  30. kuribo
    Dec 21, 2007 @ 10:08:35

    I’m about half through the book now, and I gotta say, all of the characters annoy the everliving pee out of me. I hate not finishing a book, so I’m plugging on. But if this first-time author is going to succeed, she’s going to have to learn to avoid cliches. All of the characters are cliches:

    Fayth- Oooh, look at me, I’m so rebellious, give me room to breathe! Seriously, the rebellious, listen-to-no-one female lead has been done a billion times. Add points for sheer stupidity— your family is in danger and all you want to do is leave? What’s wrong with you? GROW UP!

    Marc- Yeah, never seen a jealous ex-lover who still wants the female lead before. Never seen that. Ever.

    Jace- Whenever I read about him, in my head, he looks like Jase from Big Brother 5. Anyway, with a book filled to the brim with cliches, there HAS to be a second (third if you count the quickly forgotten Andrew) love interest for Marc to hate and to flirt with Fayth. This character has as much depth as… um… something with no depth!

    Greg- Hmmm, a strong, powerful father who rules the Pride with strength, power, and conviction… One of the most powerful werecats in all the land who happens to have a rebellious daughter. AAAAAAAAAARGH!

    Sometimes I think this book will make my head a-splode. What kills me is that it HAS a decent premise, and a fairly strong mythos around it. I totally got into the whole werecat storyline, but with characters this uninteresting and generic, it kinda spoils it for me. A tip for the first time writer, and I know it’s been said before— avoid cliches like the plague. Seriously, you clearly have a good imagination, but your execution is flawed. Go back to the drawing board, and dream up some imaginative, interesting characters for us.

  31. sunandshadow
    Feb 04, 2009 @ 02:01:22

    That’s funny – I liked Faythe ok but I hated Marc. I was kind of on the fence until he beat up the nicer rival badly enough to put him in the hospital. I’m so tempted to write a _Stray_ fanfic where Faythe kills Marc…

    Also, I feel so sorry for all those male cats because of the horrible gender balance. They should seriously get one of those sperm-sorter machines and make sure half the babies in the nex generations are girls.

  32. Lynette Serembe
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 10:43:13

    Does anyone know what age group this book is directed at?

  33. Jane
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 13:07:02

    @Lynette – I believe it is for adults. Vincent is set to publish a YA book with Harlequin.

  34. Tiffany
    Jun 16, 2009 @ 17:44:01

    Does anyone know what her YA book is called?

  35. Willow
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 12:25:31

    Ive gotta say, i really did love this book, Her flaws made it more personal, And i could SO relate to her, though i dont think im like that in any way. I may be amazingly cinical to say this, but i dont really belive in romance, or really find it ‘cute’ or ‘sweet.’ To me its boring, so this realistic take was refreshing and really believable. Thats what i want to read. I loved it :D

  36. Jeannalea
    Apr 23, 2011 @ 14:10:39

    I loved it and the next four, eager for the sixth in the set. I cant understand why you didnt put it down if you didnt like it however i did read all the feedback and am pleased to have found a potentially good site.

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  38. Sabrina
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 09:38:14

    There is an inaccuracy in the book that is really bothering me. I am very surprised that Harlequin did not pick it up in the proofing process!! In Brazil they speak (Brazilian) Portuguese NOT Spanish. Quite an embarrassing mistake to have been made for such an important character.

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