Sunday, 29 July 2007

Stray by Rachel Vincent


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.


Naomi said...

I absolutely loved this book. The Bitten comparison occurred to me too when I first heard about it, but I don't really think Faythe and Elena are comparable characters. I agree that Faythe comes across as immature and selfish in the first half - especially in her behaviour towards Marc and Jace.

However, I think that immaturity was necessary to bring home the harsh realities Faythe wakes up to in the second half of the book. There's definite character growth that promises to continue to the next book.

LesleyW said...

I think I will like the books that are coming up better, as long as Faythe doesn't regress. When I'm reviewing a book I make notes as I go. And every time she annoyed me by doing something stupid I wrote it down, I ended up with around 14 incidents. I think because she was so immature in the first half it really cuts the book in two, so I had trouble buying into the change. I kept waiting for her to revert to type.

I guess if she wasn't as old as she's meant to be- in her twenties that I would forgive the lack of maturity more easily. But she's been away to school, she's got her degree. In the end I assumed (even though we're not told this) that the werecats mature slower than humans. Which has the unfortunate effect of making her previous relationship with Marc a little icky.

I find it interesting that Marc knows her better than she knows herself. On p 262 he tells Jace - "...No matter what you think you feel for her, it isn't mutual. She's just using you to make her father mad, and to make me jealous..." (For me this is the action of a child - her behaviour, not Marc telling Jace).

I would have liked to seen more about the males as I found them more interesting. I'm especially interested in Marc's back story which was reduced to a page here.

I did enjoy the book, but it was despite Faythe. Hopefully now the setup is out of the way, I'll get more out of the next book.

Sweet said...

Faythe is one of the most annoying characters that I've come across in a very long time. Her childish complaining and self centered spoiled behaviour took me out of the story several times. I just couldn't get past it. (even if it was ment to show character development) It was only toward the end where I didnt hate her so much, then bam after a page or two I was right back to loathing her.

I also found the other characters mostly, the other males in her pride much more interesting. I agree that Marc's story was just glossed over. I have a feeling that there will be be more to come with that. Faythe's brother that is married to the human really interested me. ( Sorry I will not open that book again to find out his name)I think I see where she is going with this series, but I doubt i'll keep reading it. I know I wont buy it. I just cant feel this way about a character and buy a whole series based on her. Dont get me wrong the book i felt is very well written for a first novel but I just cant stand Faythe. I guess its a testament to her writing how strongly I feel about her.

LesleyW said...

Sweet - I was also interested in the brother with a human wife.

Do you remember at the end Luiz (the bad cat who liked to kill humans) had been sent off on a mission. I speculate that he's gone to kill the human wife, who doesn't know what her husband is. That would make an interesting story. I'd like to see it written from the husband's POV as I think Rachel Vincent writes men better than women.

Sweet said...

Lesley, I never thought about anyone going after the human wife. That is a very interesting possibility. Faythe's human boyfriend at the end dissapearing I know was ment to be a teaser, but I really could care less it was too cliff hangerish for me. If the series were to come from someone elses point of view I think I'd read it. But I'd wait for your review first. :) I agree that Vincent does write men better than women. Or at least she makes them more interesting.

Its so good to be able to come to a blog or site like yours. Where you can give your honest opinions about a book and be able to discuss the good and bad parts with a fellow book lover. I've found that lately if you say anthing negative your called a book basher.

LesleyW said...

Sweet - I think I've got to the point now where I'm pretty good at picking the books I read based on reviews, visiting websites, reading blurbs and excerpts. So hopefully there won't be too many books that I absolutely hate.

Usually I can find something positive to say about the book along with the negative, which I think is important because people want different things out of books.

Hopefully everyone has an idea now of the kind of authors I like and whether they like those authors too. And I still expect people to disagree with me. But that's fine, sometimes I think this can make you see a story in a new light.

If I thought I couldn't be objective about a book I wouldn't review it - by that I mean I won't grade it. Books that I love and go squee over I put a FANGIRL ALERT on. So you know my objectivity is out the window. And if ever I can't finish a book or hate it with a rabid intensity I'll label it RANT ALERT.

Naomi said...

Utterly off-topic... you won a book!

LesleyW said...

LOL - Yay!