St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-55340-1
Cassie Alexander’s Moonshifted is the genuine sequel to Nightshifted – same lead character, some recurring characters – so approach this one with caution if you have not read the previous book. The mythology isn’t too complex at this point – this is only the second book in the series, after all – so it’s probably able to stand alone pretty decently. This book however contains some minor spoilers for the previous book, which is to be expected. This review, therefore, will mention certain things that may serve as spoilers for the previous book, so beware.
Edie Claire is still a nurse in Y24, the secret ward in County General that caters to spooks and the victims of spooks alike. After the events in the last book, she’s back to being single, as her zombie boyfriend is forced to leave town and lay low for a while. Still, Asher, the shapeshifter, is around, and he’s still interested in Edie. Unfortunately, the vampires from the previous romp, such as Anna and Dren, are still interested in her too, and worse, Edie is recruited by Anna to be her human ambassador of some sort on Anna’s big “become part of the vampire boss gang” ceremony. A human attending a party full of vampires will be like a deer in the midst of a pack of hungry lions.
But the fun really starts when Edie and her colleague and friend Charlie witness a hit-and-run in front of the hospital one fine day. It turns out that the victim is the leader of the biggest werewolf pack in town, and now, just for being at the wrong place and the wrong time, Edie and the rest of the staff will be caught in the games werewolves play when there is a power struggle to determine who will take over the currently decommissioned pack leader.
Moonshifted is similar to Nightshifted in many ways, so if you like that book, you may like this one, and, conversely, you may not care for this one if the previous book leaves you cold. Edie is still Edie, although she is a bit more capable here and less reliant on other people to cover her rear end. It’s an improvement, although she’s still a bit out of her depths at times. Since she’s a mere human, however, her often being way out of her league is actually pretty realistic.
What isn’t so realistic – and therefore, serves as a major distraction for me – is how Edie for some reason rarely thinks of protecting herself whenever she’s out and about. She knows that several angry spooks are out to kill her, but oh, she’s too busy to practice shooting in the hospital gallery, and she walks out alone at night while leaving behind the silver cuffs Asher gives her to protect herself from angry werewolves. She also knows that her life is in danger, but she’d sleep in her apartment, thanks very much, because her locks have worked in the past and, really, what can go wrong this time?
It is a good thing that the author is smart enough to ensure that Edie’s shocking lack of sense of self-preservation doesn’t lead to all kinds of calamity, as that is the fastest way to ensure that Edie comes off as supremely dumb. Still, the fact that Edie doesn’t take any steps to protect herself until after she is attacked has me scratching my head. Edie isn’t that dumb in other aspects of the story, so why this lack of survival instinct?
The pacing is a bit spotty, as the early and middle parts of the story are devoted to the more soap operatic elements in Edie’s life. I’d prefer to read more about the woo-woo stuff, so I’m not too interested in all that angst and bitter cynicism crammed in these scenes. Not to mention, Edie can be shockingly callous despite her constant lip service about wanting to help people – she leaves a badly mutilated man who can’t see, eat, talk, or hear alone in her apartment for the entire day without giving him much thought. She treats Asher badly for no reason other than because she can, so it’s also hard for me to feel sorry for her when she sighs about the lack of happy penises dancing on her magic rainbow.
I do like that Edie can be quite the naughty wench, though – her attitude towards sex is surprisingly cavalier compared to other urban fantasy heroines that tend to treat sex like a commitment to a permanent relationship, and I find it amusing for some reason that Edie happily sleeps with every remotely handsome woo-woo guy in sight. For someone that claims to be mistrustful of spooks in general, it really doesn’t take much for her to accept the woo-woo guys into her… life.
If the book starts out slowly, the later parts of the book, when the action heats up, is most readable. The suspense is solid, although the pay-off is marred considerably by the appearance of a variation of the deus ex machina plot device, when a previously unannounced character with super powers shows up from nowhere to ensure that the good guys win. Still, during these parts, the pacing is fabulous, the dramatic moments are well set up, and I am at the edge of my seat several times.
Moonshifted provides some really good entertainment while it lasts, but the pacing, some plot devices, and a bit too much tedious angst for my liking all work together to prevent me from truly jumping with excitement. Still, the series has been most interesting so far, and the messy love triangle that I dreaded while reading the first book never materializes here. In many ways, this is a refreshing change from a typical urban fantasy romp out there – this one doesn’t even have a romance arc – so yes, I’ll still be hanging around this ward for a while.