For some reason it’s taken me forever to get round to reading this series, even though I love Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series – see My Soul To Take and My Soul To Save. I think I was put off by the idea of werecats – because you know, werewolves are perfectly believable but werecats? That’s just silly. I finally picked it up because it formed part of my Emergency Book Collection at my boyfriend’s flat, and I finished my previous book quicker than expected. I’m so, so glad I did though and I can’t believe I waited this long – if the rest of the books are even half as good as Stray, this series will be amazing.
Yuck. That summary is appalling. Faythe Sanders is nothing like that, or at least she doesn’t seem like that to me. She’s much less menacing, less arrogant and less generally irritating, to be honest. In fact, I liked her and any of my friends will tell you I tend to… well, not like people. She’s doesn’t make stupid decisions or decide she can handle the whole thing herself, like some other paranormal ‘heroines’ I could name, but nor does she hide behind the closest male crying into a hankerchief. Instead she makes informed, rational decisions where possible but will fight like a tiger (appropriately enough) when cornered to defend herself or her family. I’ve seen a few reviews that call her selfish, but there are a number of times where she puts the wellbeing of Abby, her cousin, before her own. She has her selfish moments, sure, but so do we all.
I also liked the character of Faythe’s mother. I know she’s meant to be slightly irritating, but I ended up just wanting to give her a hug instead. I’ve read a few reviews that complain about how un-feminist these books are (but then again, isn’t there a similar rant for every book in the entire world?) but I’d go for the opposite. Even the minor character of Mrs. Sanders had an important role on the Council, as she explains to Faythe. It’s nice to see a paranormal novel with genuinely strong female roles, not just characters that pretend to be while fluttering their eyelashes.
The werecat concept does work, by the way. I don’t know why I didn’t think it would. If anything, it makes a refreshing change from werewolves. It never feels silly or forced, because because it felt slightly tongue-in-cheek to me.
The plot takes a while to get going, but I was halfway through the book before I even noticed, and it’s a good 500 pages long. What I’m trying to say (badly, I know) is that I didn’t mind. I was quite happy learning more about Faythe, the Pride and her family because the prose is so accessible and the characters are so amusing. The action kicks off about two thirds of the way through and from there it’s a merry skip to the end. Well, not so much merry. A violent, bloody sprint to the end then, more appropriately.
My only slight gripe (and it is a slight one) was the introduction of too many love interests for Faythe. I’m not really a fan of love triangles in the first place, so a love square was really tipping the scale for me, especially when one seemed a little pointless and, uh… Insta, if you catch my drift. That said, I really did like the relationship between Faythe and Marc. I’d have preferred a little more explanation of why they broke up in the first place, but they way it developed throughout the book was wonderful.
Stray is very, very, very similar to Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. I’m not saying that to imply that Rachel Vincent deliberately stole her ideas – far from it. After all, there are only so many werewolf/cat plotlines possible. And hey, both books are fabulous, so it’s hardly a complaint. But still, let’s examine – female werewolves/cats are rare, but yet this fiesty, strong example does not want to be in the Pack/Pride any longer. She moves away to a different city and a new boyfriend, but is then dragged home due to a dangerous Mutt/Stray on the loose, even though her ex-lover also lives at home who she left because he was too clingy… You get the idea. It’s more than possible to read both books though – in fact, reading Stray made me want to reread Bitten more than I already did!
Long story short, even if you think you’re sick of paranormal romance/fantasy, read this book. It’ll reignite your interest, I guarantee it. It took me ages to get round to picking it up, but I’m so desperate for the next installment I’d fight a werecat myself to get to it sooner.