Review: Stray by Rachel Vincent

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.

There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . . And I’m one of them. I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds. 
Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked. I’d been warned about Strays — werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared.
This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. 
Yeah, right. But I’m no meek kitty. I’ll take on whatever — and whoever — I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays — ’cause I got claws, and I’m not afraid to use them.

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.

Read my review of Rogue, the second book in the Shifters series,or visit Rachel Vincent’s website here.

Comments

  1. Allison says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. We're opposities – I've been putting off reading the Soul Screamers series even though I enjoyed this one. I really need to start them though!

    Also, I really think you'll enjoy the rest of the series. I did. Some of the love stuff got a little too drawn out, but that happens pretty often so no huge gripes!

    1. Hanna says:

      Wait, the love stuff isn't over yet? I thought it was all done and dusted and stuff? Ohhh, that might be annoying!

      I do like the Soul Screamers books, although they're a little less adult than this one. Definitely aimed at a younger audience. I like them though 🙂

  2. Alexa says:

    I have also been putting off reading this series for a very long time, no clue why. I have books one and two so you have inspired me to pick the first one up and actually read it. I'm sorry that there were too many love interests, maybe some of those will be taken out of the equation with time.

    Thanks for the great review.

    Thanks for stopping by Pages of Forbidden Love, you do NEED to get a copy of Forbidden by Suzuma because it was the second best YA book I read in 2011.

    1. Hanna says:

      Do it! I can't wait to see what you think of this one. I really do think they're worth reading. I hope they're taken out of the equation too, but looking at the above comment, it doesn't look like it. I don't know, love triangles/squares/trapeziums really irritate me for some reason.

      The second best? What was the first? 🙂

  3. That description makes me feel a bit icky! If I'd picked up a book and seen that I would have run very far away! But maybe I can move past it and get reading some Rachel Vincent – your raving about her is definitely filtering into my consciousness. Which do you reckon? Werecats or soul screechy things?

    I've had 'Bitten' on my eReader for AGES too – I don't know what it is about these that just never says "Read me" loudly enough! Maybe I should retreat from the world for a little while and fix that…

    1. Hanna says:

      It's weird, I don't seem to get e-mail notifications about your comments anymore. Maybe Blogspot has now just ASSUMED you'll comment and will likewise ASSUME that I'll know it?

      I know, it's awful. I wouldn't have picked it up based on that description. It depends. 'Soul screechy things' are more original, but these are more mature. Depends on your mood, I guess.

      I'm going to steal your e-reader and attach a post-it saying 'I AM BITTEN, READ ME' on it. I can't believe we've been friends this long and I haven't prompted you. Forget the above paragraph – READ THIS ONE. Listen to the capitals.

    2. How rude that your emails don't recognise my presence. I mean, I know it's a bit of a given but still! It would be nice to be acknowledged :p

      I think I'm going to go with Bitten and soul screechy things! Bitten because I wouldn't dare disobey the capitals! And soul screechy things because they sound cool and I really want to read something by Vincent. Decision made – hurrah!

  4. Hannah says:

    I've been itching to read this since I discovered its' existence!! Shapeshifters. CAT shapeshifters. Sounds lame to you, freaking awesome to me, haha. Plus all the good I've heard about it and now you raving about it.. urgh! Need more time to read! Glad I at least have 1-4 of Soul Screamers and 1-3 of this series for when I do pick them up though. That's something! I'll probably read Soul Screamers first though.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I'm so glad you liked it! I really loved it as well and I loved the rest a whole lot more! So you should be in for a treat. 😉 Sadly there's a love triangle going on, but at least not a square, right? Lol. I was a bit annoyed with Faythe in the beginning of this book, but it disappeared towards the ending! And I too loved her mom and wanted to hug her! I really think she's a strong woman as well. I'm also absolutely in love with werecats, way more than werewolves, so I particularly liked that part. 😉 And no, I have no idea why since they're not common at all!

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