Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-1187-3
Don’t be fooled by the woman holding two guns on the cover of Jess Haines’s Hunted by the Others. Whoever that woman is, she does not show up in this story. This one – the first in a series, naturally – is so talk-heavy and action-free for the most part that the cover ends up being pretty misleading.
Shiarra Waynest is a human PI. In this alternate Earth, we have the Others – magic-users, werewolves, vampires, and the whole la-di-da bunch – who came out of hiding during 9/11 to help and band together with America to smash the terrorists. I wonder whether the Others in other countries are as pro-America, hmm. At any rate, because of their patriotism, the Others are granted full citizen rights along with additional “people with handicap” benefits, although there are also plenty of rules and measures – on paper – that protect humans from these, er, handicapped spooks.
So, we have Shiarra. Would you be surprised to learn that her business is going under? After all, she doesn’t bother with the accounts – numbers make her head spin and she doesn’t like paying attention to them – and she has no clue how much she is in the red. She thinks she’s just accepting a lucrative gig when she agrees to locate a magical artifact from Alec Royce on behalf of the magic-using Circle. When she realizes just how deep she is in the crap, she rationalizes that she can’t quit the gig because her friends will be in danger if she does, she needs the money, et cetera. I have to love artificial contrivances that keep a heroine on the stupid and dumb path.
So, Alec Royce. He’s a vampire. Of course he’s the most powerful vampire in town, owning half the place despite sleeping for 12 hours a day, and yes, he has all these cool BDSM clubs where people wear leather and get all sexy and what not. Shiarra has an ex-boyfriend who turns out to be a werewolf, and yes, Chaz is possessive, alpha, and what not. There’s a rather geeky Circle member, but that’s geeky in a typical romance novel “hunk with glasses and pocket protector” style, so nobody will die of culture shock from reading this book.
Meanwhile, Shiarra tries so hard to be cute in that “Incompetent – but darling!” manner. She is useless at numbers, and all her kick-ass thing comes from a magic belt. She gapes and flounders most of the time in dangerous situations. But who cares, right, when she’s yet another stereotype of inept dingbat being courted by a vampire and a werewolf?
The mystery is slow, talk-heavy, and yes, because this story is already bogged down by stereotypes and clichés, the identity and the gender of the villains don’t come as too much of a surprise.
There are many urban fantasy series out there, many of which had started long before Jess Haines boards the bandwagon. If I want to invest time and money on yet another series, the author has better give me some solid good reasons to do so: powerful world building, characters that do not come off as yet another tired rehash of the same old stuff, and exciting story lines. This one has none of the three and no other reason to make up for the lack. This book is a painless read on the most part, although I roll up my eyes at the heroine now and then, because it’s pretty competently written. But as I’ve said, I don’t have many reasons at the moment to get excited over it or the next books in the series.