Ana is a lisitsa, a skin walker who takes the form of an arctic fox. After a human lover tried to ensnare her by burning her fox skin, she was trapped in her human form for two years while she desperately sought some kind of healing that would allow her to once again resume her true shape. Alone and in torment, she has resorted to stealing the skins of other skin walkers in a desperate bid to escape the imprisonment of human flesh.
Brec, a selkie healer, finds that his skin has been stolen. Grief and rage drive him to seek out the thief in order to reclaim his skin and exact vengeance for his loss. He never counted on losing his heart in the process. He has a choice, to take the revenge he sought and punish Ana for her crimes or to find it within himself to forgive her and help her heal her damaged skin...and her broken heart.
Jennifer Blackstream's latest Paranormal Romance gives us an interesting immersion into what skinwalker culture might look like. The author has a graduate degree in psychology, and she uses her background in order to place the reader in the minds of what would be a strikingly different culture from our own. Though the book is set in present-day Alaska, none of the main characters are, or ever have been, human, and their values, their culture, their perspectives reflect the very different lives they might live. Though the genre is very popular, in this book Ms. Blackstream has chosen to explore a subset of lore that lies along a lesser used road. She weaves in a bit of Celtic mythology with a deft touch in what I found to be some of the highlights of the book.
I found myself not always liking the protagonists as much as I would have hoped, especially in the earlier part of the book. Ana's actions are impulsive and selfish and she takes a very short-term view with regard to decisions. She comes across as being emotionally immature, as does Brec, who vacillates wildly from violent rage to gentlemanly concern for Ana to suspicion to fear and back around. It is an emotional maelstrom. Brec has the makings of a wonderful romantic hero in many ways. However, he is also ninety-two years old; one might hope he might have gained more perspective on things by now. As the story progresses, we see more and more evidence of just how different the lives of these characters are from our own, and thus to project human expectations and human values onto them may not be realistic. It is the author's world, and we must trust her to guide us faithfully through it. As a human myself, however, I had a difficult time accepting the seemingly incongruent emotional development of the protagonists.
I also had a bit of difficulty with the way some of the various plot elements came together; some things seemed a bit forced, particularly in the early parts of the story. For example, the character of Nu, a Pixy, seemed to function as a device to facilitate the progression of certain plot points. We never learned much detail about him in and of himself, and he showed up at times when the story threatened to stall and injected snippets of helpful dialog to get things back on track. I wanted to like him, but I found him not quite credible as a character. At least the author did have the good sense to dress him in fur, since a Pixy would likely have a tough time surviving in Alaska.
Blackstream certainly does take us for a wild ride. We experience the heat of anger, the tension of fear, the anguish of grief, and the hopelessness of depression, but we also experience the thrill of attraction, the heat of desire, the warmth of love, and the light of hope. There may even be a miracle thrown in for good measure. While the characters got off to a rough start, they do learn and grow from their experiences. At the end of the roller coaster, we find forgiveness and a chance for redemption in the ashes of the past. If you are looking for a story that will give you a bit of heat and leave you with a sigh of contentment, this one fits the bill. I will be interested to see how Ms. Blackstream's future works progress. Some of the writing evidenced here flowed well and was very solid and descriptive with good attention to detail. Fans of the Paranormal Romance genre should keep an eye on her.