Book Review: Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock #1)

This is a new-to-me paranormal/urban fantasy series by Faith Hunter. Note there are several prequels/short novellas published that chronologically happen ahead of this full-length book, but this was the first full book of the series and the first one I’ve read.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.
Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own… 

I grabbed this one since I’m a fan of similar urban fantasy novels like those from Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs. I was intrigued by the character description of Jane Yellowrock, and wasn’t disappointed; she’s a kickass heroine. Jane has a special extra guest who inhabits her body – Beast – a large (very large) feline predator who Jane can change into, either on purpose/by choice or if Beast feels she needs protecting. Beast also provides an internal dialogue, helps Jane track scents/people/things, and gives Jane more strength, agility, and cunning than any human should have. Good thing she’s not really human.

Jane finds herself embroiled in a hunt for a rogue vampire in New Orleans, and the city descriptions took me back to a fantastic trip there pre-Katrina, with all the wonderful history, creepy nighttime tales (both real and imagined) and the colorful cityscape. Jane’s task is made more difficult by several unhelpful vampires and she finds herself caught in a power struggle between the vamps (just don’t call them that) and the local human police while she attempts to track the rogue. She’s also finding it difficult to keep her Beast in check, especially when a very attractive biker winds up providing assistance for her investigation. Jane has to juggle Beast’s attraction to the biker while trying not to get herself killed by one vampire or another (or the human cops). As she finds out more about the rogue, Jane also begins to uncover buried secrets from her past and her youth, and her back story slowly starts to be revealed, making her wonder if she is truly the last of her kind.

Fast-paced action scenes, a great setting that enhances the story itself (because New Orleans and creepy mausoleums with vampires? Yes, please!), as well as a unique blending of Native American stories and urban fantasy made for a fun read. I enjoyed getting to know Jane and I will definitely be picking up others in this series when I need a good “mind candy” read. My only issues with the book were that I didn’t always find reading the Beast’s internal dialogue easy. I understand why the author crafted Beast’s conversation as very stilted and short-handed, since she’s…. well… A Beast and not human, but the longer passages were tedious to read. (And if we’re going to write the animal character’s thoughts in a different way than Jane’s internal dialogue, wouldn’t the owl form Jane shifts into also have a different voice?)

Overall rating 4 out of 5 stars for entertainment value and another good urban fantasy series I’ll look forward to reading more of.

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