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Review: The Werewolf Whisperer by Camilla Ochlan and Bonita Gutierrez

The Werewolf WhispererThe most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. – Ferdinand Foch

Any deviation is looked upon as a perversion, is feared, and is usually a target of hatred and prejudice. – Joey Skaggs

Fear is the most debilitating emotion in the world, and it can keep you from ever truly knowing yourself and others – its adverse effects can no longer be overlooked or underestimated. Fear breeds hatred, and hatred has the power to destroy everything in its path. – Kevyn Aucoin

 

Lucy Lowell’s life changed in an instant – an instant in which her partner with the LAPD Animal Cruelty Task Force, Officer Gabe Torres, was shot in the back. A moment when Gabe – changed. When fangs and claws grew, bones twisted, and a monster stood before her. Her life changed. And then life changed. For the whole world.

Now, the problems of walking the dog, training and, of course, housebreaking, gain a whole new meaning… as in, teaching the family teenager not to chew on the furniture or use the floor for a toilet. Nope, these aren’t your sexy, muscled up Alpha heroes so adored by us lovers of Urban Fantasy. Uh uh – this is “Jimmy, get off the couch!” “Sally! Spit out my Louboutin!” “Bad Tommy! No piddling on the carpet!” Since the appearance of the Kyon Virus, California really has “gone to the dogs” – and these dogs can definitely go feral. An estimated 1-in-20 Californians are struck down when the Virus appears. No one seems to know what it is, where it comes from, or even though it is supposedly limited to California, just how far it has truly spread.

Of course, as humans will, for every calm and positive person willing to accept the Afflicted into their lives and their worlds, for every family willing to work with and continue to love their newest furry family member, there are the cruel, the vicious, the hateful and the murderous. And then there is Lucy Lowell and her partner, Xochitl Magaña. Lucy, better known by the public as “The Werewolf Whisperer,” the woman who can calm your Hound, control your Feral, or help you retain your sanity by putting down your beloved child who has become a Werebeast. Life isn’t easy for Lucy and Xochitl – but it is about to get a lot uglier, and more dangerous, than they would have ever believed. For there is a lot more going on than appears on the surface – and all the kings horses and all the kings men may never be able to put the world back together again.

The Werewolf Whisperer is, in a word, brilliant. There is no trope to this book. Instead, the story is unusual, amazingly well thought out, mature, and definitely non-magical. While the whole book is excellent, the authors interest in and research regarding military, scientific and medical issues really grabbed me, keeping me deeply interested in not only the story of Lucy, Xoc and the other major and minor characters in the story – but also in how beautifully the technical issues of the book were handled. Of course, psychology plays a huge role in a world where your child, your wife, your husband, or even your grandmother suddenly devolves into a wolf – a wolf who may have the personality of the biggest, dumbest, happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever you ever saw — or of a rabid wolverine with a nasty hangnail.

Hate plays a huge part in the story. Humans hate anything, or anyone, they perceive as different from themselves. And Kyon provides just the excuse that the violent, the religious fanatics, the sad and savage and cruel and complete and totally whacked need to justify horrific actions.

So you handled him the way human beings always handle things that are bigger than they are. You banded together. Like hunters trying to bring down a mastodon. Like bullfighters trying to weaken a giant bull to prepare it for the kill. Pokes, taunts, teases. Keep him turning around. He can’t guess where the next blow was coming from. Prick him with barbs that stay under his skin. Weaken him with pain. Madden him. Because big as he is, you can make him do things. You can make him yell. You can make him run. You can make him cry. See? He’s weaker than you after all. – Orson Scott Card

Of course, poking and prodding at the ‘dogs’ just won’t satisfy the hate when guns and torture work so very well. And being able to train and communicate with the ‘newly furry’ places Lucy square in the crosshairs of the religious fanatics, sure that the Kyon sufferers are actually demons sent by Satan, hated by their god, whoever they choose to call ‘him’, and fair game for the savagery of the “Righteous”. This is a story well versed in the ‘humans behaving badly’ concept of humanity as an entity.

While this can certainly be placed easily within the UF genre, I refuse to limit the book in this manner. I would instead call it a marriage of medical mystery, legal and military thriller, suspense, horror, and, oh yes, urban fantasy. After all, the main characters in the book do turn into ‘wolves’. Just not wolves as we have ever seen them before. And believe me – this a good, very good, wonderful thing.

Note: I have no idea how I came across The Werewolf Whisperer, but I can’t find an email from a publisher in my inbox, so I take it that it wasn’t offered to me by a publisher as many of the books I review are. I read the book through Kindle Unlimited, so I read it for free (Score!!!). I can’t recommend it highly enough. In many ways, the tone of the book reminds me of the works of Natasha Mostert in its surreal yet highly realistic, in its own way, delivery and storyline. Get it. Read it. I found it more than worth the reading time, and I look forward to the next book in the series! (Oh, and for those who mentioned that the Hispanic character is too “white” for their tastes – both of the authors, Camilla Ochlan and Bonita Gutierrez have very light skin and eyes. I would imagine that being “too white” is just as difficult in Hispanic culture as it is in Native American or African American circles – so in my mind, the skin colour issue simply adds another layer to a complex character…)

Review: Shimmer In The Dark: Rogue Genesis by Ceri London

rogue
Click cover to purchase the book. Do it! You KNOW you want to!!!!

Ceri London has written, in Shimmer In The Dark: Rogue Genesis one of the most powerful science fiction/fantasy novels I have read since Dune. Well, actually, it is better than Dune. More creative, with a wider range and depth of reality, that is approachable to all readers. This is, without doubt, a science fiction novel, but it also has strong ties to military-political intrigue in the present day which grounds the novel in a level of believability even when the “fiction” portion of the science asks you to stretch your mind into new levels of belief.

Some, I suppose, would lean more towards calling it ‘fantasy’ as there are no space ships and Earth colonies on other planets. If you are one of the ‘hard sci-fi geeks’ that some of my friends are, you might be disappointed by no space rockets blasting around, I suppose, but that should in no way deter you from reading this jewel of a book.

Unlike many, I have no problem stretching credulity to new levels. I don’t expect a science fiction or fantasy book to stay within the realm of ‘probability’. I expect to be taken to a new place, a new level of existence, while I expect that existence to still feel believable. I expect to be charmed into a new sense of reality for a short while. Something that Ms. London has done brilliantly in this, the first of a four-part series.

Niall Kearey is a very special person, with a very special family. As has been described by the blurb on the book, he can, with is mind, reach out across galaxies to what he thinks is a ‘dream world’ – a world “racing towards annihilation” – a world soon to pass into alignment with Earth, with unknown outcome. Here on Earth, there are power brokers, secret societies, power-hungry and amoral politicians, and a corrupt U.S. Military. A military and power structure that will do anything, including the destruction of Niall’s beloved family, to bring him under their control and use him for world domination. Of this, and possibly other worlds . . .

London, in my estimation, did a beautiful job of making me feel her characters. I actually understood, and admired, Niall. My admiration was not only for his special abilities, but also for his love of and deep commitment to his family. In the face of horrific circumstances, he stands by his family and continues to fight for them, when everyone around him is betraying his faith, his honour and his commitment to country. The very thing that Niall has fought for, and watched his friends die for, is pulled into the light, and that light shines upon a dark and venomous snarl of greed and xenophobia that would happily watch whole civilizations die, accepting only the technology and power that those cultures might provide. In all, humanity at it’s slimiest, humanity who would sentence millions to death, while gobbling up their scientists to live as virtual prisoners, slaves to the military-industrial complex. Yep. Humans all right. Humans who would imprison a decorated military man under “correct supervision”, using him as a lab rat to assure his “asset to this nation” status.

Yes, a lot of the book made me sick. I want to howl in despair at the horror of the reality of what humans truly are, what they are truly capable of.  Of human avarice, hatred, brutality and vicious self-aggrandizement, the truly black and horrific souls within. Sick, in that everything that London writes is so very gut-wrenchingly believable in so many ways. So real within the fictitious world that she creates. Amidst the black holes, space-time jumps, dark matter universes and other fascinating and well-researched portions of the book, London delves into the human psyche, and lays bare its soul. And proves, beyond a doubt, the very reasons that, even if there are other civilizations out there, my view of how they would view Earth is “That poor, beautiful orb, filled with the trailer trash of the universe, vicious, dangerous creatures to be avoided at any cost.”  I can see the signs hanging in space now:

DANGER

Overall, if you are a lover of science fiction style fantasy, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was on my back burner for a while, a lot longer than I had wished for it to be, but I am so very glad that I finally sat down and read it. It was well worth the time. More than worth it. This book needs a lot more attention than it is getting right now. Go out and buy it. I can guarantee you that you will be recommending it to your friends. It’s very creativity of concept makes it a standout in the field. That should draw you in. What will keep you there is the writing, the characterizations, and her deep understanding of the human psyche will keep you reading, and watching for the next in the series.

Highly recommended.

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