Hunter's Moon

Moon's Web

Touch of Evil
by C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
(Tor, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-765-35400-4
Lots of energy, lots and lots and lots of detail about the alternate reality the authors have created, not a lot of romance.

Kate Reilly lives in a world where the existence of werewolves and vampire-like creatures known as the Thrall are common knowledge. The Thrall are parasites that inhabit human bodies and feed off their blood, which, of course, eventually kills them.

The current Thrall Queen is in need of a new Host, and she’s picked Kate, apparently because she’s the most kick-ass gal in town and she has strong psychic powers. Kate fought off an attempt to en-Thrall her several years ago during which she was bitten by a Thrall (which left her psychically connected to them) and killed a Thrall (which gave her special status as Not Prey, as opposed to Prey – food). The Thrall seem able to control human minds, which I guess explains why people don’t simply kill the Thrall and free themselves. And, human beings being the twisted creatures they are, some people are actually eager to serve the Thrall.

Not Kate. She will do anything to keep from becoming their Queen. Anything, that is, except turn down a plea from her sleazy ex-fiancé who dumped Kate for her best friend after Kate saved his life. The Thrall apparently wants Dylan’s niece so she can be their Queen if they can’t persuade Kate to take the job. Dylan may or may not be under Thrall control, but he says he wants Kate to make sure his niece is “safe.”

Why this is Kate’s job is one of the few things in this book that is not described in exhaustive detail. She’s not an FBI agent or a SEAL or an assassin for hire. She’s a former professional volleyball player with a dicey rotator cuff who now makes a living as a bonded courier.

She is also renovating a warehouse into apartments. A tenant leaves her in the lurch, so Kate is thrilled when a hunky fireman named Tom shows up needing an apartment. He’s a lycanthrope, but Kate’s got nothing against werewolves as long as they pay their bills. She’s also delighted by the fact that sexy Tom seems quite interested in his new landlady.

This book is written with the enthusiasm and brisk style that I’ve come to expect from these authors – but it is Way. Too. Complicated. I applaud Adams and Clamp for creating their own unique alternate reality, but they’ve made this world (and on top of it, this particular situation) so intricate that they need pages and pages of info dumping in order to explain it to us. While they do info dumps as well as or better than anyone else, it’s just not interesting story telling, and it’s hard to keep track of the barrage of detail. Equally irritating, once they get started they can’t seem to stop. One section is a play-by-play of what Kate’s watching on television and how she cooks noodles.

Kate is a likable and vividly rendered heroine, although she’s not terribly bright. She spends a lot of time explaining to us the convoluted rules that govern her status as Not Prey, but doesn’t seem to notice that she’s the only one following them. And in spite of the plethora of villains – there are lots and lots of them – she’s almost ridiculously trusting.

Tom is a charming and deliciously hunky man, but we don’t see much of him – he shows up at about page 60 for the apartment, then completely disappears for a long time. He becomes essential to the story late in the book, but his involvement is at the direction of his pack leader rather than by his own choice. This unfortunately contributed to my sense that these characters are chess pieces being moved around at the behest of the authors rather than people being driven by their own unique motives and desires.

The sex, when we get around to it, is pleasantly steamy, but ultimately the relationship-building is a minor subplot compared to the world-building.

Lots of you will find this book a lot of fun, because it is. What it isn’t is a romance, by my definition, anyway.

-- Judi McKee

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