Can't a girl catch a break? Not when you're one of 8 breeding female werecats in the continental United States; and especially not when you are an Alpha's daughter.
After growing up in a gender-biased society of werecats where females are only expected to have litters of children to further the species, Faythe Sanders escaped the oppressive rule of her Pride and her Alpha/father for the care-free whims of college life. After completing her BA, Faythe stayed on to continue grad school and her normal life. Normal, human boyfriend Andrew and a normal, human roommate have done wonders to keep Faythe centered and focused and decidedly ignoring any non-human activities.
That is until she happens upon a stray on campus one night. Since this is the South Central Pride's territory, this stray is breaking the law and needs to be sent back to the free territory. Only he doesn't smell like a normal stray; he's spicier than that. After getting into an altercation with this stray and breaking his nose before he ran off, her father's enforcer show up, in the form of stray-turned-Pride-cat and former fiance Marc Ramos, and inform her that she will be coming back to the ranch immediately. Upon arrival it is like being thrown back in time as nothing has changed at the Lazy S ranch. Her room is the same, her brothers are still over-protective, and her parents are forever trying to get her to settle down with a husband and children.
Only upon further inspection is she told that her cousin Sara has been kidnapped and several young women have been mauled and murdered recently. Naturally Faythe rebels against being brought back to be "protected," she wants to help and fight whoever is behind this nefarious plan. Soon enough, there is more fuel to the fire when her teen cousin Abby is taken and Sara shows up murdered. As the Prides band together to find this murderous cat, Faythe gets more than she bargained for when she asked to help. The force of parental pressure, and sexual tension between Marc, Jace, and herself, causes Faythe to forget her surroundings and become the next kidnapped tabby.
In a race against time, Faythe discovers what true courage is, who she can really trust, and that protecting is what is meant to do.
Stray is the beginning of a great werecat series by Rachel Vincent. While she may have some flaws, Faythe Sanders is a strong female character who proves that no one is perfect, but that doesn't mean you stop trying. She does what she thinks is best and what her heart tells her is right, despite the consequences. Now, this can get her in to trouble, more often than not, but at the same time it is what makes her so likable as a character.
She's not the only one though. There are SO many characters in this book because Prides are necessarily small. Faythe's older brothers run the gamut from uber-responsible lawyer Michael, to fun, frolicy Ethan. Marc and Jace are the main love interests and as such are definitely beyond the realm of normal hotness. Faythe's parents are the very image of what I would expect a sire and dam to be like: overprotective, caring, understanding, and yet firm when necessary.
The plot is built so that as you go along, you find yourself trying to figure out who is responsible for what, because all of the necessary clues are found in the story itself. Often times I find that the main character solves the mystery with outside information that the reader is not privy to and it just irks me; but here that is not the case. The story plods along and carries you all the way to the very end, with the climax just a few short pages from the end! It's fantastic!
Overall I'd have to say that Rachel Vincent has now won a spot in my "awesome" shelf with this book and series. Make sure to check out all the books, in order of course,:
Shift is scheduled for release March 1, 2010 and the final book in the series will be entitled and is tentatively set for October 2010. Stay tuned for more Shifters action.
Also, if you like her werecat series, Rachel Vincent has also written a bean sidhe series about a teenage girl who has just discovered that she is a bean sidhe. The series is called Soul Screamers and it already has a prequel novella (available for download here) and two published books (My Soul to Take & My Soul to Save). I am having a Soul Screamers week at the end of January to celebrate this fantastic series. Find out more about the celebratory week and GIVEAWAY here.