Woohoo for me—I finally finished a book! Reading time has been a challenge lately, what with Susannah and her crazy deadlines. Suzanne’s reading has gone in the crapper. But I was interested in this new urban fantasy because of a) the heroine’s an archaeologist, which has to have all kinds of cool, and b) the worldbuilding looked really unusual. So, here goes.
Archaeologist Zoe Miller has been running from a haunting secret her whole life. But when her cousin is abducted by a vicious Russian kidnapper, Zoe is left with only one option: to reveal herself. Unknown to even her closest friends, Zoe is not entirely human. She’s a werewolf and a daughter of the Fangborn, a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles embroiled in an ancient war against evil. To rescue her cousin, Zoe will be forced to renew family ties and pit her own supernatural abilities against the dark and nefarious foe. The hunt brings Zoe to the edge of her limits, and with the fate of humanity and the Fangborn in the balance, life will be decided by an artifact of world-ending power.
A SCENE I’D READ TWICE:
In London, Zoe confronts an evil wealthy collector of rare artifacts, with ties to international crime. He’s a creepy dude, and their encounter in his home at night is suitably creepy in itself. Bad dude. I wish he’d gotten more page time.
I DIDN’T QUITE BUY (or believe, or I was annoyed by, or I wish the author hadn’t…):
I felt Zoe, who on the one hand has had a pretty street-savvy upbringing with some experimentation in drugs and whatnot, comes across as pretty naive and young, particularly in the beginning chapters. She was clueless about her odd ability to turn into a wolf, sure, so some of that is to be expected as she learns about her true nature. But her character read very YA to me, and I kept having to remind myself that, no, she’s supposed to be in her mid-20s with a brilliant mind for archaeology. It might be that I’ve read way too many YA-heroine-discovers-her-secret-nature-and-has-to-save-the-world novels—I got seriously burned out on that story trope at least a year ago. So I wasn’t happy to see it in an adult UF. Zoe also kept pointing out that she’d never left the United States before, but she was surprisingly (unbelievably?) adept at maneuvering her way around big international airports and foreign capitals.
Definitely one of the most unusual cases of worldbuilding I’ve read. Cameron turns all the paranormal tropes on their ears, and the reader will have to decide if it works or goes too far. The “Fangborn,” or Orphans of Pandora, can be vampire, werewolf, or oracle. Vampires can also shapeshift into big, walking snakes that thrive on sunlight and have mind-control abilities. Both vamps and weres are built for ridding the world of evil. There’s also a link to the dangerous Pandora’s Box, and an international assortment of agencies/agents/relic hunters trying to find it by chasing Zoe around. I found keeping who’s working for whom difficult to keep straight, so I finally quit worrying about it and just read for the plot itself, which is an interesting mix of genres as Zoe goes hopping around the globe, DaVinci Code style, in search of the next clue and chased by a nebulous assortment of bad guys and good guys (and we aren’t sure which is which because each has his or her own agenda). I did sometimes we were getting pulled so slowly into this complex world that I was almost wishing for an infodump to give me some reference points.
Except for the youth issue, I liked Zoe, and she was easy to root for as she stumbles through her adventures. I thought the worldbuilding outdid the character-building in its depth, so I’d probably say my favorite “character” was the plot device itself as Zoe rocketed from one cultural site to another, from London to Paris to Berlin to Greece and Turkey.
I liked this book and would give the second one a look (I think it’s the first of a trilogy) despite some issues with the character depth both with Zoe and her supporting cast. I loved the whole concept of the keys to Pandora’s Box being the items (a la Raiders of the Lost Ark) that propel the action as the characters chase the fledgling archaeologist around the globe. It lends a physical scope one doesn’t often find in urban fantasy. Just more character development, please. Oh, and if you’re looking for romance, there’s a mild subplot with a former boyfriend, Will, but there’s nothing steamy here, and I’m fine with that.