by Nathalie Gray, futuristic (2009)
Ellora's Cave, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-4199-2132-2

Animal sees Nathalie Gray moving her futuristic action series Lycans to Seoul in the United Koreas during year 2534. Okay, we still have an Asian kung-fu ninja hee-hah prototype of a ass-kicking hero, so we're not exactly bucking the stereotype here, but hey, I'm always up for some Asian kung-fu ninja hee-hah.

Okay, where we last left off, the lycan resistance is trying to bring down the shadow government called the Iron Conclave, and they have some human allies to help them. That doesn't mean things are going to be easy for the good guys though. Still, if you are new to the series, I'm happy to say that this story can stand alone very well because what you need to know can be found here.

Brioni Metcalf, our heroine, is one of the humans who have joined the resistance. Known as the Goth Fairy, our heroine helps handle the logistics of her resistance cell. When the story opens, the resistance movement is rejuvenated by the reappearance of some key figures, and Brioni is more than happy to aid the cause to the best of her abilities. Little does she know that her attraction to Haruto, a reclusive lycan who always has a pair of goggles over his eyes, will come to a boil in the process.

Animal is a very entertaining read when Ms Gray is doing what she does best: fast-paced action scenes full of explosions and what not. Here, Ms Gray manages to step up on her more quiet scenes which are usually... well, not a weakness, but in previous stories I always found myself wishing that those scenes would be quickly done with so that I could get back to reading about the more exciting stuff. Here, however, the quieter scenes have a charming appeal of their own, especially when Brioni stumbles upon Haruto making music that, like Aretha Franklin would say, kills her softly inside. I still find the more explosive scenes a little bit more exciting, but I think Ms Gray is getting there with her more quiet scenes.

I wish the flashbacks to Haruto's past is inserted a manner that is less disruptive to the flow though. I personally doubt we need actual flashbacks when those details could be inserted into the story via conversations. At any rate, those flashback scenes are inserted at places and in a way that takes me right out of the story.

Still, all things considered, Animal is a solid entry into the most entertaining Lycan series. A part of me can't help thinking that Ms Gray will pull a Lora Leigh and find a mainstream publisher that will allow her to expand this series and place a greater emphasis on the action, thrill of the danger, and fancy pyrotechnics like explosions and such that make these stories so much fun to read.

Rating: 84

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