I’ve been on something of an urban fantasy binge lately, especially after finishing all the books in the Dresden Files and Iron Druid Chronicles that are currently out. Literally, when I finished Staked, I kinda slowly closed the book and was like, “Well, shit. What am I going to read now to get my UF fix?” Luckily, Goodreads was to the rescue with related suggestions and that was how I stumbled across Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series, the first book of which is Skinwalker. The title alone managed to snag my interest simply because, in all the other urban fantasy books I’ve read, skinwalkers are seen as baddies. They originate from Native American folklore, known as beings who take the skins of other animals – even humans – so that they can transform into those animals. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist reading a novel based on the perspective of a supernatural being that the rest of the urban fantasy genre has labeled as evil. Luckily for me, this was another home run of a book.
First and foremost, I really loved Jane as a character. All too often in books, we see female leads who claim to be self-assured and independent, only to fall in love the male counterpart a few chapters into the book, then lean on the male to help them realize their full potential and yadda yadda yadda. I’m rather sick of the trope, honestly. Jane, though, is a breath of fresh air in this aspect. She drives a motorcycle she helped to piece together herself. She works solo hunting and staking vampires. She doesn’t need a man to complete her and, most of all, she isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when the need arises. She can put a man to the ground within seconds and doesn’t take any shit from them either. To put it simply, Jane is my hero and who I WISH I could be, even after a year of taking kickboxing lessons. She’s all of these things and more, and that doesn’t even begin to touch on her supernatural heritage.
Another unique aspect of this novel was the heavy emphasis on Native American lore and culture, particularly when it relates to the Cherokee nation. As a proud descent of a Cherokee, I was tickled to learn that Jane came from the same people. Too, we got to see quite a bit of Cherokee language. I was especially grateful for having downloaded the book on Audible, so that I could hear the words as they were supposed to be spoken, rather than take a guess at it and butchering it myself. (The audiobook is awesome, by the way. Not Luke Daniels awesome, but still pretty good.) Throughout the book – and I’m assuming a great many subsequent books – Jane’s history remains a mystery. She doesn’t remember much from before she was twelve, but as you progress through the story, you learn tidbits here and there, especially when it relates to whom she shares her body with – Beast. Beast happens to be a mountain lion, as well as the usual form Jane takes when she shifts, but as we learn she shares as special bond with Jane. Beast is both humorous and downright terrifying and their relationship is based on mutual trust and respect. It was interesting to see how an animal and human can so flawlessly interact with one another and, quite frankly, was an aspect of the novel I didn’t anticipate. I thought the “skins” that Jane would take would be nonexistent character-wise.
The mystery aspect of the novel revolves around a rogue vampire killing in Louisiana. Jane is hired to track and kill the rogue by – ironically – another vampire, Katherine, who owns a whorehouse that caters to vampires’ specific needs. Jane is, naturally, hesitant to trust vampires, even if they are “sophisticated,” so it was amusing to see her try and navigate the uncertain waters of vampire customs and court. The politics concerning the vampire clans in the Louisiana is surprisingly complex, too. Plot-wise, Hunter certainly outdid herself. She created a rich, mystical world and a compelling mystery that had me guessing who the rogue was until the very end.
Finally, while there was a resolution to the mystery in this book, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered, many of which correlating to Jane herself and her past. This will, undoubtedly, keep readers coming back for more each time a new book is released. Luckily for me, I came into the series fairly late, meaning there are already ten books out, with another to be released in the future. That means I have nine more books to devour and get busy reading!
If you love urban fantasy, particularly something with a different twist, you should certainly think about looking into this one. You won’t be disappointed!