SPOILERS POSSIBLE SPOILERS POSSIBLE SPOILERS POSSIBLE
I admit I had a bias before starting this book. The blurb of Stray felt too similar to Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. (Bitten is the book I would recommend for anyone wanting to know what Urban Fantasy is about.) So Stray had quite a bit of work to do.
Especially for the first half my opinion has never yo-yo'd so much as regards what grade I was going to give a book. Mainly because I find myself suffering from Kushiel's syndrome again. More on that below. On with the book.
Faythe Sanders is a female werecat (tabby) who craves a normal life. Unfortunately 'tabbies' are much rarer than 'toms' and because of this are protected. When other tabbies start disappearing Faythe is called home from University. She is determined this will only be a temporary setback for her independence, but the choice might not be hers to make.
First off the good stuff. This is a well-written debut to a new urban fantasy series. At 616 pages it's a little long (some of this length is due to page formatting I think - text columns are quite narrow) but the author manages to keep up the pace of the story. The world and family relationships are believable and not all the mysteries are given away - so at the end we're left wanting more. There's definitely something going on with Andrew which I hope will be followed up. The characters with one important exception (see below) are interesting individuals I want to know more about.
My main problem with the book is the protagonist. Faythe is an incredibly selfish and immature heroine for the first half of the story. She also makes stupid mistakes because of her own arrogant behaviour. During the first three hundred and forty pages every single time I thought she was improving she'd do something to reinforce my negative opinion. (Hence the yo-yo-ing grade). She keeps going on and on about how she wants to be treated like an adult but insists on behaving like a twelve year old. She seems unable to grasp the concept that if she behaved in an adult manner her family would be more likely to respond positively. This is very wearing to read about and also makes it difficult to understand why (seemingly) every adult male not related to her wants to be her boyfriend.
Halfway through she has an extra large dose of reality and her behaviour improves. I found the second half of the story a much easier read because she was dealing with her problems rather than just complaining about how hard her life is - maybe because by that point she was in a situation where no one cares. She's still overly arrogant and cocky but it's easier to experience because she's not being such a brat.
I'm counting this as another Sleeping Beauty book because Faythe's abrupt maturity follows her abuse at the hands of her captors. They're trying to take her power but essentially end up giving it to her.
I'm cautiously looking forward to the next book - Rogue. I think now that the set-up is out of the way I will be able to get into the series. And I hope at some point in the future Rachel Vincent will write a story about the werecats that isn't told from Faythe's perspective as I find her the least interesting character.
Although I've given this a C+. To be fair I'd give the first half a C, and the second half a B.