Novels / Reviews

Retro Review: Skinwalker by Faith Hunter

Last month, we featured a review and character interview from Faith Hunter’s newest book Shattered Bonds. It seemed to me if I was going to post a review for the most recent book in a series that I really ought to review the first one as well. This is another novel that just recently had its ten year anniversary.

Skinwalker was published on July 7, 2009 and follows a rogue vampire hunter named Jane Yellowrock who takes a hunting job directly from a group of vampires rather than her usual human clients. The “sane vamps” as she calls them are dealing with a rogue rampaging the city of New Orleans and would prefer not to escalate tensions with the local humans anymore than they’ve already been. The setting feels like a character in and of itself. I’ve never had the chance to visit New Orleans, and the vivid descriptions of the good (the amazing food!) and the less-than-good (the sweltering humidity) all pull me into Jane’s world and walk me through a place I can’t physically see or feel, exactly like a good book is supposed to.

I also have to give Skinwalker credit for one of the most entertaining character backstory scenes I have ever read. When Jane first approaches her potential new employer, Katie, the vampire asks to know more about her. Jane directs her to the bio on her website, which Katie counters is dull and lacks her full history. The two then get in an informal verbal competition—each trying to outdo the other on how much unofficial information they have gathered about one another prior to this meeting. It’s hilarious, but moreover, it tells me all the basics I need to know about these two in a very small space.

Jane is a fascinating character on a number of levels. She is a Cherokee skinwalker, which allows her to shift into any animal of relatively similar mass if she has a bit of their DNA. But she also has a second soul inside of her–an entity called Beast, who occasionally takes charge of her mind when she shifts into Beast’s big cat form. The origins of how Beast and Jane came to inhabit the same body isn’t a question that’s answered right away, but the banter between them provides an intriguing relationship. Jane is also one of the rare Christian characters I’ve read who is neither angelic nor evil. She refuses to curse but is totally fine with the bloody act of decapitating a vampire. She feels guilty when she’s not at fault, but this doesn’t stop her from rushing into a situation and acting on instinct, either. She’s full of fun but realistic and humanizing contradictions.

One of my other favorite parts about this book is the relationship between Jane and the vampire master of New Orlean, Leo Pellissier. Leo comes off as your standard powerful and dangerous vampire who is rarely contradicted or questioned. Instead of paying him respect in their first meeting like everyone else does, Jane pins his primo bloodservant George (aka Bruiser—Jane loves her nicknames) to the floor. And this is probably one of their less confrontational encounters. Leo and Jane grate on each other to no end but also still need each other, much to their frustrations. It’s often a complex and dangerous back-and-forth that continues throughout the series.

The conclusion of the book is unexpected and exciting and made me want to pick up the second right away. I’m looking forward to reading more as well as picking up the companion series, Soulwood.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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