Stray (Shifters #1) by Rachel Vincent

Stray - Rachel Vincent

Faythe wants freedom from her repressive werecat family. As one of the very few female werecats, her father and brothers want her firmly repressed, kept at home and quickly married off to a man of their choosing. Faythe wants to go to college and lead her own life as an actual person…


But when other female werecats are targeted by an outside force, Faythe finds herself dragged home






So, Cyna brought this book to my attention with her review. Therefore my suffering through this is all her fault and I will never ever ever let her forget this.


There’s so much wrong with this book that I’m going to have to take it in little bites just to get through it all. Let’s start at the simplest: the protagonist is called “Faythe”.


Faythe? What kind of Originalnamee misspelling is this? Is there a reason why she couldn’t have been called Faith?


Next, let’s take the super shallow world building. We have werecats – yay, original, something different from werewolves. Except not. Everything about the way these werecats are portrayed is pretty much identical to all of the endless troped portrayals of werewolves we’ve seen. The alpha. The Pack (or pride) is the same all-controlling violent unit we’ve seen a hundred times before. It’s a shame- this could have been the opportunity to tell a story about wereanimals that doesn’t revolve around the typical not-even-accurate-for-wolves violent pack model. But this series doesn’t even claim a particular species of cat – they’re just generic big cats. It feels… lazy


And the word for a female cat isn’t a “tabby” it’s a “queen” – or does that imply too much power for these women?

Which is another awful problem with the world building. We have yet another shapeshifter story where for REASONS women are super rare. We’ve seen this so many times – for some reason there is a desperate urge to make women rare in these stories, to have women surrounded by men and, ultimately, it is used as yet another reason to make women vulnerable and powerless.


In an odd “twist” I guess, women inherit the pride alpha status. A pride that doesn’t have a female heir will collapse. But the power over the pride doesn’t go to the daughter – it goes to the man she marries.  Why not just have the alpha status transfer to the oldest son and be done with it? There’s nothing empowered about making women “powerful” solely for their relationships, being love interests, being mothers. They’re not powerful, they’re objects defined entirely by the men in their lives, to be used and controlled


This could have been interesting if we’d had Faythe facing down this misogyny, challenging it and working to change it – but the whole point of the book seems to be about telling Faythe how wrong she is and making her get into line.



Like the idea that the “tabby” can choose her own mate so technically chooses the heir – yet it’s made abundantly clear that her parents set her up with Marc from the very beginning, groomed him to be the replacement alpha and pushing him and her together from the time they were children. They have no problem with Marc brutally beating men nearly to death because he shows some interest in Faythe. No, that’s wrong – they blame FAYTHE for that. They blame her because she doesn’t recognise that she belongs to Marc even though she doesn’t want to.


The sad thing is she starts challenging this. When Marc tries to claim her without her consent she reacts with appropriate rage. Yet by the end of the book she is clearly being set up for a relationship with Marc. Any anger she feels towards him quickly fades and she doesn’t remotely feel the same kind of anger towards the other characters (men) for pushing them together. There’s also a nauseating scene where she is deeply traumatised by the death of a friend – a death that indicates female werecats like are being hunted: she’s grieving, she’s scared and she gets drunk. Which is when Marc decides to flirt and initiate sex. This is the level of respect he has for her – waiting for her at her most vulnerable, when her judgement is compromised with alcohol – this is when he goes for sex.


This is never called out – if anything Faythe regards it as another of her mistakes, definitely not his – and it just seals the deal on her being Marc’s property.


Similarly, Faythe begins the book being utterly contemptuous of her mother for being, basically a house wife. She constantly piles on derision on the woman because she cooks and cleans and raises her kids – a classic case of Exceptional Womanhood (especially since the other women in this book, few that they are) are even more victimised than Faythe. But she soon learns her lesson – because her mother used to sit on the werecat’s council! Gasp, shock! She was once a leader but chose to sit down – yay feminism!


Which fails on two levels. Firstly, Faythe can only respect her mother the home maker IF she learns her mother ISN’T a home maker. That’s not respecting other women and their choices – that’s respecting them only when Faythe approves of their choices. And secondly it’s a terrible attempt to absolve werecat society of sexism – see the women CAN sit on the high council. But none of them do. Not one. All of them prefer to stay home and raise the kids. This is like hearing misogynists saying “there aren’t many women in STEM or CEOs simply because women don’t want to! Not because of sexist society/industry!” Bless, women would totally be equal but they’re just not interested in these things and much prefer to let the men take charge.


This is supposed to show Faythe how wrong she is again for assuming that werecat society is so sexist and restrictive for her. But this neither dispels how utterly sexist the society is and compounds it my presenting a sexist (and homogenous) view of women and blaming them for their lack of presence or power.


Then we have her father who locks Faythe in a cage (there’s even a moment where she compares how she’s kidnapped by the big bad guys) if she doesn’t go where he wants her to, if she tries to run away or otherwise act like a person. Her father’s minions and her brother have no problem physically pinning her down and knocking her to the floor if she is anything less than perfectly obedient. While Faythe rails about her freedom a lot she frames it far more about wanting to go to college than actually regarding the cage with anything resembling outrage or horror. She regards it as an annoyance. Even when he threatened to have men watch her when she was in the bathroom to ensure she’s never alone. There could have been some attempt to show that she’s brainwashed or suffering from Stockholm syndrome but there isn’t – and we continually get love and affect from her to her family that kidnaps her and any anger she has is very short lived. The horror, the utter outrage that should be presented in the face of this brutal, kidnapping cult is completely missing. More, her attempts to escape are, if anything, presented as childish, foolish and infantile. In fact, her only successful attempt to actually be alone leads to her being kidnapped.



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