The first in the urban fantasy series about a Cherokee shape shifter.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Running Time: 13 hours, 59 minutes

Jane Yellowrock is a vampire hunter. She’s also a Cherokee skinwalker, a shape shifter who can change into any animal once she has a sample of it. Shifting into a smaller or a larger creature is problematic because the extra mass has to either go somewhere or come from somewhere but possible. However, she shares her mind with the Beast – a mountain lion whose shape it’s easiest to shift into. But once she changes into a mountain lion, the Beast takes over. While Jane can suggest to her what to do, she can’t command it. She doesn’t know how they can share the same mind but suspects that the Beast knows.

New Orleans has a thriving community of civilized vampires. However, they have a problem: an unknown rogue vampire who is killing and eating both humans and other vampires. So, they decide to bring in out-of-town-talent: Jane.

The timing is good for Jane. Some months back, she was seriously injured while killing a vampire nest and she took time to heal. Now, she’s better and eager to get to work. She’s never met a civilized (or sane, as Jane calls them) vampire before, so the situation is very new to her, too.

Her employer is Katherine “Katie” Foutaneau, who runs a high-class brothel. Jane gets a house right next to Katie’s Ladies and gets to work. By night she tracks the rogue vampire in the mountain lion form and by day she tries to find out everything else she can.

Jane is an interesting character. The Beast is often near the surface and Jane has to mentally wrestle her down and stop herself from growling at people. Jane doesn’t remember her parents or her childhood. Her memories start when she was twelve and was found in wilderness. As far as she knows, she’s the only skinwalker in the world. Her sense of smell is stronger than normal humans and she uses it a lot.

When Jane shifts, the Beast takes over as a narrator and her voice is different from Jane’s. The Beast makes short comments about smells and the funny habits humans have. Her narration has short, even one word sentences, and it’s stylistically very different from Jane’s voice.

In this world, two types of supernatural creatures are out in the open: vampires and witches. Witches have to have a license to work. Jane’s best friend is an Earth witch Molly who knows everything about Jane and the Beast. Molly does some spell work for Jane but she also supports Jane emotionally. Molly has two kids and Jane is close to them, too.

There’s lots of gore in the book. The fight scenes, especially near the end, were bloody, and the rogue vampire actually eats parts of his victims so the descriptions of the bodies are also pretty gruesome.

Unfortunately for me, while I liked the plot, Jane, the setting and especially Jane and the Beast, the romantic plot was, well, typical UF fare. The vampires can smell that Jane isn’t human but can’t tell what she is. So, instead of, for example killing and dismembering or kidnapping her, they invite her to bed. Every single vampire, males and females, are trying get into Jane’s pants and so are their handsome, muscle-bound blood servants. That got old real fast for me. Also, there’s the typical asshole jerk “romantic interest”, Rick. We meet him in the first couple of pages and it was hate at first sight for me. Rick tells Jane straight out that he wants her job, then he stalks her literally by staying near her front door, and phoning to her and demanding to know where she is. When she doesn’t instantly get into bed with her, he says “what are you?”. Yup, if a woman doesn’t want to sleep with him, she’s of course not “real woman”. What an asshat. And what does Jane do? She hires him to stick around even more and gets jealous when she finds out that Rick sleeps around. (When I reached that point, I was rolling my eyes so hard, it’s a small miracle they’re still in my head.) Too bad. Without Rick, this would have been a far better book, possibly one of my favorites in UF.

Hvam is a great reader. Her tone of voice matches Jane’s inner voice very well and she makes accents which sound to me like Southern US. She can also make her voice lower for male characters.